TRIAL NOT ERROR: Why every organisation should have Trojan Mice

Okay, confession time: I try my absolute hardest to avoid books on social media.

Books on climbing? Yes. Books from self-styled social media ninjas? no thank you.

One of a few that stands like a shining beacon is the excellent ‘Organisations Don’t Tweet, People Do’ by Euan Semple.

I’ve lost count of the number of people I’ve recommended this hardback work to. Even if you don’t go out and buy it you can take something from the title.

One of the reasons why I’m rather keen on it is that it strikes a chord with some of the work we’ve done.

One example that Semple comes up with is ‘Trojan mice.’

In other words, in an organisation do lots of little things to see where they end up and if they work without shouting about them to the world. Or senior management. He writes:

“Conventional initiatives are like the more familiar Trojan Horse. Big, lumbering, slow moving. It takes a lot of people to move it and it is very hard to get it to change direction without a lot of effort.

“As we deployed low cost small tools and kicked off little initiatives at the BBC we began to describe our approach as deploying Trojan Mice, a metaphor borrowed from British consultant Peter Fryer.

“Set up small, unobtrusive inexpensive and autonomous tools and practices set them running and cajole and nudge them until they begin to work out where to go and why.”

It’s an approach that in spirit chimes with Dave Briggs’ line about JFDI – Just Flipping Do It.

Thinking back, some of the things I’ve done have worked well. Others haven’t. None of them we’ve made a big noise about from the word go.

Of course, there is the argument from some PR people that everything – Trojan Mice and otherwise – has to be linked up to a campaign with objectives, key messages and things to measure. I’m just not so sure about this. This feels like trad comms sellotaping itself to the new stuff and forgets that fact that to make this new stuff work you have to embrace the fact it’s a conversation.

With Trojan mice you can make some mistakes. Do five things. If two work, tell your bosses’ boss about them and see how you can nurture them elsewhere. Even the quiet failures you can learn things from.

Creative commons credits:

Trojan horsey


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