Field of memes: five reasons why you need more LOLz on your intranet

Some time ago, we ran a popular post on the most hated intranet features you need to see the back of, such as Dilbert cartoons and Picture of the Day. It was so popular, in fact, that we had to do a follow-up.

But we’re nothing if not contradictory, so today we firmly suggest you need more memes on your intranet. LOLcats, Overly Attached Girlfriend, Harlem Shake, all of it. Fill your intranet with pictures of cats. And here’s why.

1) Fun is an underrated quality on the intranet

We spend eight hours a day at the office, and we’d be lying if we didn’t admit to spending a good few minutes of that each day having a laugh. As the digital workplace becomes the primary place one goes to get work done, then it follows that it should also be the place to share a giggle with colleagues.

Getting the balance right between the genuinely funny and the cringeworthy is a perennial problem for communicators, but all too often this means we steer clear of anything likely to raise a smile for fear of it falling flat. Take a risk now and again.

2)Your intranet should reflect your company culture – if your organisation has fun, your intranet should reflect that

In our post ten characteristics of a great intranet, we talked about how intranets play a vital role in creating and reinforcing the culture of an organisation, and in supporting cultural change.  If self-deprecating humour is part of your culture, it should be part of your intranet too.

3) Shared creative artifacts allow people to familiarise themselves with their tools

In his book Cognitive Surplus, Clay Shirky argues that LOLcats are a sign of human progress. They and other collaborative creative internet memes  are, he suggests, a sign that our society has taken a huge leap forward.  Memes are an example of shared, online work that we do with our spare capacity to think and do – our cognitive surplus – now that we also have the tools with which to do so (computers, the internet). Creativity isn’t limited to civically-minded actions. A stupid creative active is still a creative act – still an example of people using the tools now at their disposal to make, do, communicate, think, act.

Shirky uses the analogy of the printing press; within a few short years of Guttenberg inventing it, the first erotic novels emerged. It took another 100 years for the first scientific paper to be printed. The internet is only 20 years old, and look how much amazing stuff is already being made – some of it useful, other stuff just funny. If you want the Wikipedia or the Ushahadi (or their intranet equivalents) then you also need to take the Harlem Shake and the LOLcats, because both are examples of humans working creatively and collaboratively. The long-term payoff is that people will embrace the tools, and the concept of collaboration, if given the freedom to experiment.

4) Users are increasingly familiar with online conventions, especially in social spaces

Intranets aren’t on the internet, but they are of the internet. Your users – especially younger ones – use web conventions and shorthand almost as a first language. Embrace that and (where appropriate) communicate with your users as if you’re using an online platform, not using the tone and content of a corporate magazine. If that means using a picture of Grumpy Cat to get your message across, then go right on ahead.

5) Shared experiences – and even LOLz – help to establish trust between employees in the digital workplace

One of the greatest criticisms of mobility, supported by the digital workplace, is that it leads to individuals becoming atomised and disconnected, communicating with their colleagues remotely rather than making human connections face to face. Working as virtual teams creates some tough challenges, as communications get misinterpreted and team workers are unwilling to trust each other.

Shared interests and experiences, whether that’s comments on where to find a good burrito or the collaborative making of an amusing online meme all serve to create connections between individuals, establishing bridging and bonding capital so that they can work better together on other tasks.

Moar LOLz? Srsly?

We’re not really suggesting you give up valuable home page real estate to showcase the latest picture of Success Kid.  But memes are sometimes an appropriate way to communicate, when applied to the right kind of messaging. And fun is great addition to an intranet, particularly a social one. By embracing the best (and worst) of online culture, you can influence  organisational culture, improving perceptions of the intranet and developing a collaborative community.

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  1. Andrew Wright

    My research into effective intranets supports this tip (which I found surprising). After interviewing the managers of the highly ranked home pages (according to their own end users) some consistent themes emerged – one of which was to provide fun or interesting non-work related content on the home page.

    I mentioned this in the article: The WIC’s most valuable intranets of 2012 (based on end user feedback) – See more at: http://www.worldwideintranetchallenge.com/2013/02/top-intranets-of-2012-based-on-end-user-feedback.html

    Other examples of interesting non-work related content that these home pages provided included Quote of the day, Employee interviews, a Bulletin Board for selling things, quick polls, and photo of the week/day.

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