Understanding “Social” in the Enterprise

on May 1st, 2012 in | Comments Off on Understanding “Social” in the Enterprise

As social media platforms continue to expand on the internet … with record numbers flocking to places like FaceBook, YouTube and Twitter … many are still trying to figure out what it all means to the enterprise.

Marketing, Sales and Customer Service organizations are exploring possibilities in terms of customer contact.

But what can social technology do for employees, those working inside the firewall?

Unpacking this is no small task. Even grasping the concept of social media can be challenging. The example of a “virtual cocktail party” is still sometimes used to explain the interactive dynamic, but if you’re a CIO, you’ll need more than that to get traction with the Executive team.

In two recent posts, I introduced notion of the Connected Organization and talked about a concept popularized by Gossieaux (2010) called the knowledge network. In both posts, we touched on McAfee’s thought process in Enterprise 2.0 (2009) and our need to shift the traditional discussion of knowledge as a static “thing” (to be captured, stored, and managed) to a more organic vision, built around fostering the flow of insights.

To make social work in the enterprise, we need a viable operational model for social, one that’s embedded as part of our day to day. To me, it’s about

  • creating opportunities for new conversations to spark
  • creating places where new relationships can form and grow
  • fostering the flow of insights
  • connecting people across organizational silos

Ultimately, it’s about generating new ideas to advance projects, expand professional interests, and improve how work gets done across the enterprise.

Fundamentally, it’s about unlocking collaboration.

One challenge social technologies face in the enterprise is the required cultural shift, changing our mindset from the structured and controlled exchange of information to an approach that’s more fluid and organic. Most companies still live by the industrial factory model approach, with its hierarchies, silos of experts, and rigid prescriptions on how work gets done. This model is good for many things, especially if you’re manufacturing widgets, but it can close the door on new ideas.

Some see “social business” as a way to describe the future. It’s not a bad frame, but the social reference may keep causing friction with C-Levels when we need it least … during the early stages of adoption. To me, if business must speak “social” we’re better served discussing new collaborative capabilities and the technologies needed to support them, creating a roadmap for the integration of social platforms.

We’ll continue to explore these key challenges here.

Meantime, as leaders, we need to find better ways to let people to do what people do best … connect, organize, learn … and innovate.

As I said in my last post, Ciber sees a coming convergence between the practice of Knowledge Management (KM) and enterprise social networking, focusing on new levels of collaborative capability. We need workspaces for working together that are better integrated.

It’s time for CIO’s to take a hard look at what’s possible with social technologies inside the firewall. Leave the party planning on FaceBook. It’s the 21st century. We’ve got work to do.


Gossieaux, Francois and Ed Moran (2010) The Hyper-Social Organization New York: McGraw Hill McAfee, Andrew (2009). Enterprise 2.0. Boston: HBS Publishing

Collaboration in the 21st Century: Why Accelerating the “Flow of Insight” is Key to Getting Smarter, Faster

on Mar 1st, 2012 in | Comments Off on Collaboration in the 21st Century: Why Accelerating the “Flow of Insight” is Key to Getting Smarter, Faster

Today I start blogging with Ciber, and I’m excited to be here.  For some years now, I’ve been posting in open spaces about organizational learning, knowledge and change, and the many possibilities emerging with social technologies.  In the process, I’ve learned a great deal about what resonates in a business setting, and what doesn’t.  It’s given me a broad sense of what it takes to collaborate in the 21st century, and it’s alerted me to many barriers.

To me, it’s a set of profound insights coming at a critical time. Business today is demanding more than ever, in a world that’s connected more than ever.  Unfortunately, these powerful business dynamics can make IT Integration more complex and more challenging than ever, as well.  Ask any CIO.  Helping an enterprise get smarter is a difficult problem.  And that’s if it even makes the agenda.

What organization can afford to rest on its past accomplishments?

It’s not a rhetorical question.  Nor is it one to leave to chance.

I believe that accelerating the flow of insights is increasingly critical to any organization that seeks to advance its financial stake, or to otherwise enhance its ability to deliver.  Organizations need to find ways to get smarter.  And to survive in the 21st century, a leading enterprise must find ways to get smarter, faster.

Let’s drill down.  The traditional view of Knowledge Management (or “KM”) holds that the most important insights of any organization should be captured, stored, and tagged for quick retrieval.  In this way, organizations always tap from the best, most informed sources internally available.  When it works, everyone wins.  The problem is that this approach often fails.  Many have blamed vendor tools or faulty ROI calculations.   But in reality, knowledge, like an organization that creates it, constantly changes and evolves.  Ideas emerge anew as context continually shifts.  Given this churn, virtually all of an organization’s most valuable insights remain trapped inside of people’s heads, or worse, they are lost in countless emails.  In both scenarios, important insights are very difficult to retrieve.

Far too often, thinkers and collaborators must work against the grain.

In April, Ciber is publishing a white paper called “Getting Smarter, Faster” which begins to unpack how organizations can turn the tables, taking on the long-running problem of stranded knowledge.  It’s time to take active steps to define a new collaboration paradigm.

For some background reading, take a look at Andrew McAfee’s Enterprise 2.0.  Where he leaves off is where we’ll begin.  We’ll want to explore the many facets of the long-running battle with stranded insights.  We’ll look at how organizations can be more effective in how they communicate, how they innovate, and perhaps most importantly, how they learn.

No silver bullets ahead, I can assure you of that.  Effective collaboration is not a destination, but a journey.  It’s going to require both hard work and some critical thinking.  I hope you’ll join us here as we explore the possibilities.

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