Perry Timms writes on social HR and asks the questions we should all we asking about the workplace. He has over 20 years experience in business change including project management, organisational development, talent strategy and L&D. He is well-known on the blogger and event circuit and is regularly asked to chair conferences, roundtables and webinars, both in the UK and around Europe. Perry is a CIPD adviser on social media and engagement.

I recently spoke at a conference set up by the Change Management Institute called #CMIDisrupt. It was aimed at providing a lens of disruption to change, the world of work and leadership through change.

Whilst it might have grated some by the use of the word “disruption” it was a great way to look at what is REALLY going on with change.

I talked about the socialisation of change and called out Hackathons as a social “sport” changing the way change is conceived, devised and delivered. For those of you who’ve never been involved in a Hackathon and aren’t sure of what they are, in essence they are:

They are though, ultimately, conversation jams; festivals of dialogue / exchange and concertos of alternative thinking.

And a recent attendance at a marvellous conference in Brighton called Meaning struck me in so many ways that change is best when it’s people-centred.

There was also one quote utterly bowled me over: “a conversation is the smallest unit of change.”

I still think this is such an elegant way to label something we easily dismiss as “just chat”. Something we don’t think will “take us anywhere” and something we believe will vaporise as it’s “only us talking about this”. 

And true, we need actions to back up these conversations but what if, just if, your conversation with someone really DOES change their view on their world, the things that matter to them and the way they live their life? 

And then they do the same with someone else and so it goes on.

The phenomena that is TED talks is largely an 18 minute speech that helps us think differently and be inspired. “Ideas worth spreading” is the tagline and so what if we could construct “conversations worth having”?

Brene Brown’s inspirational “The Power of Vulnerability” is one such TED talk that could inspire a million conversations. About people’s own vulnerability and their own way to be wholehearted in the way they live and behave.

And every one of those million conversations could change those people for the better. They won’t unknow what they now know. They may never let go of something so dear to them that they have changed.  And what they do and how they behave will change for a long long time to come.

So it is with social media/networking.

Sharing great insight; jumping on an inspiring and challenging Twitter chat; being part of an awesome online hackathon; being party to a dynamic Google Hangout. Conversations with people that happen to be online.  Indelible impacts on each other through the simple act of conversing with each other. The power in a blog post that ignites a power to act.

So social media posting isn’t just boring exchanges of the same moans on stacked ranking in performance management; or the latest coaching tool that’s revealing what lies behind esteem issues in leaders.

It isn’t just woeful tales of how difficult it is for HR in the public sector to get traction on new ways of working.

If it is to you, I’d assert you’re not doing it right. Or at least not looking in the right places.

Like the boring conversation at a networking event with an overly sales-oriented type where you can’t seem to escape the hum of product functionality and purchasing plans. 

You can dial out of those conversations and into those that matter. 

Where the eager new practitioner pours out their heart of what THEY want to do with their new found professional tribe. Where the wise old hand talks about their experiences and shares their insight into the way we become unstuck from this quagmire of same-old, same-old in leading people through change.

Social media and the networked conversations we have ARE the smallest unit of change.

By all means have fun with them – wow, we all need a laugh. Yet there’s conversations that matter. Conversations that forge connection in our very being – be they shared wisdom or just words of support.

Just because it SEEMS like all we’re doing is talking doesn’t mean that’s not inspiring people to action. It may mean YOU’RE not inspired, so go find a conversation where you are inspired or challenged and don’t inflict your disdain, pompousness and negativity on everyone.

That’s a conversation killer, not a clever way to move the dial.

Change can become a socialised and conversational sport. If we’re social enough to engage and be part of it.

One conversation at a time.