Social capital RoI – preserving collaborative networks and work-life balance

I am in the midst of collecting interesting thoughts and remarks from the Enterprise 2.0 Conference this week in San Francisco (while preparing for the Enterprise 2.0 SUMMIT this week in Frankfurt) and this one caught my eye. Noticed this too during the life video stream from the conference, but it was only a side-remark then, and it’s more interesting in terms of RoI and “collaborative performance” than one sees at first sight. During a panel Booz Allen Hamilton VP Art Fritzson and senior associate Walton Smith shared their experiences integrating social and collaborative software into the BAH consulting business and argued like this (via Thomas Claburn at Information Week):

Enterprise 2.0, properly implemented, can create a barrier to exit.

[…] it can help companies retain valuable knowledge workers by weaving social bonds into the fabric of the workplace.

“People think twice about leaving and giving up all that”

Sounds a bit like “silk bondage” replacing the iron cask of lifetime-employment – but I wouldn’t be so negative, would I? It’s probably more about designing a workplace people enjoy and allowing the growth of employee’s social capital is good business practice with (hard to calculate but substantial) side benefits. Preserving functioning teams (and collaborative networks) by keeping people from leaving for good is one good benefit, OK.

Yet I wonder how this ties in with a caring for work-life balance – nurturing human-relations to colleagues, partners and bosses is vital, but this isn’t the social life of people alone. Entertaining a campus cafeteria, pet barber shop and sports facilities might be good for people with work-related friends mostly, but this is worrying me a bit. What’s your take, am I too negative and “german” again?

Social capital theory – nicely explained

Via Bill Sherman I stumbled upon a CommonCraft video, that I missed upon at first sight.

Social capital theory nicely explained, that is, citing Bill:

Dr. Nan Lin,  professor of Sociology at Duke University, defines social capital as the ability to locate and mobilize resources within your network. It’s not just who you know, it’s who will actually invest effort to help you towards your goals.

In this video, Common Craft teaches the basics of social capital theory. If you listen carefully, you’ll hear aspects of Nan Lin’s social capital model, Ronald Burt’s structural holes theory, and Mark Granovetter’s “strength of weak ties.” […]

Extended social media strategies (or is it “social business design”?)

I am currently preparing two in-house social media workshops (both will be borrowing heavily from the Enterprise 2.0 playbook as well). While one will lean a bit onto social media monitoring, the other one will focus on using social media instruments for internal knowledge dissemination in yet to be formed professional social networks.

Now, I am trying to pursue an open ended and flexible approach to both talks and was thus looking around for some nifty visualizations to provide some additional structuring without being too restrictive (yes, I was shortly pondering the use of wordles too) . Honestly, there are a lot of nice looking social media whatever visualizations – including David Armano’s take on social business design which I bookmarked then and which served me as kind of starting point:


Basically it’s a visualization that guides us onto good questions, and a lot of room for improvisation in an adaptive workshop setting too: What would businesses be like if they were truly social?:

Imagine if a company like GM, was at the core “social”. Not just participating in “social media”—but through every part of their business ecosystem, were connected—plugged into a collective consciousness made up of ALL their constituents, from employees to consumers to dealers, to assembly line work[er]s etc. What if big organizations worked the way individuals now do. We’re actively using cloud services, mobile, networks and applications that offer real time dynamic signals vs. inefficient and static e-mail exchanges. In short, imagine if what makes “Web.2.0″ revolutionary was applied to every facet of an organization transforming how we work, collaborate and communicate? We think this is possible. And we’re calling it “social business design“.

I really like that approach, for one it’s probably one small step closer to some kind of nice and “easy as it gets to explain” consultancy “products” (probably neede for the Enterprise 2.0 field to flourish, see comments #2 and#4 at the link, alas german language), second it’s incorporating a good part of the fuzzy social stuff we all know is important into the concept, while not talking tools:

[there are four] archetypes of Social Business Design:

Ecosystem – a community of connections
Hivemind – the socially calibrated mindset of individuals
Dynamic Signal – the constant multi-faceted means of collaboration
Metafilter– a method of finding signals in vast amounts of noise

Think informal social networks and their role for the real workings of organizations. Or think of the importance of “social capital”. So while some differentiation and clarification is still necessary, this may be an interesting social media (implementation) heuristic (aka “consultant’s product”).

OK, for posts on the concept see these interrelated posts (this seems to be the Dachis team together with David and Jeff Dachis, of course):

# Peter Kim: Reflections on Social Business
# Jevon MacDonald: Taking the Leap: Social Business Design

Peter Kim: Reflections on Social Business
Kate Niederhoffer: Social Business Design: a social psychologist’s take
Jevon MacDonald: Taking the Leap: Social Business Design

Especially Jevon is expanding on the intricate tasks that arise when companies become more (inter-)active, ie. matters of organization. Lately he’s been posting Understanding the role of Enterprise 2.0 and moving towards a Social Business and then Social Business Design and the Real Time Enterprise (now I get the underlying pattern behind all those scattered posts, Jevon – all the best for the dachis team).

Social Computing Upends Past Knowledge Management Archetypes

… or so Forrester Research holds in this report:

When knowledge management (KM) practices, tools, and architectures burst onto the scene in the mid-1990s, they looked a lot like the old economy businesses that built them, hierarchical and workflow-driven. Now, Social Computing tools are flattening those architectures and extending the reach of KM well beyond the walls of the conventional enterprise to touch customers and business partners. Information and KM professionals are becoming knowledge facilitators, and they must get smart fast to capitalize on this trend. Although disruptive, Social Computing will transform KM, shifting the emphasis from repositories, which are hard to build and maintain, to more intuitive, tacit knowledge sharing. Social Computing is becoming the new KM, moving it from an often too academic exercise into the real world of people sharing knowledge and expertise with each other naturally, without even thinking about it.

Overall I am glad that Forrester Research is pushing this specific application of social software, as this is good news for social software and knowledge management consultants like frogpond.

But I would elaborate on their argument, basically because when many past knowledge-management projects and initiatives did not work out as planned, they did so rarely because methods or tools lacked.

For social software to turn out successful, it can’t be sufficient to ponder, propose and promote (new) methods and tools.

What is also needed is appropriate groundwork and background, i.e. paradigms and principles that guide the selection and usage of methods and tools, and insight into the nature of complex organizational systems. Emergence, connectivity and adaptivity are traits of organizational systems that are supported and leveraged by social software – good for organizational knowledge management but not restricted to it.

If you’re eager to know more and are looking for social software support and consulting assistance, contact me.

Bookmarks for April 16th from 21:31 to 21:31

Social business pinboard links for April 16th, syndicated automagically:

Teams’ knowledge use and performance (under stress)

Just a short note – check out  Heidi Gardner’s Harvard Business School working paper Feeling the heat: The effects of performance pressure on teams’ knowledge use and performance (pdf)

Why do some teams fail to use their members’ knowledge effectively, even after they have correctly identified each other’s expertise? This paper identifies performance pressure as a critical barrier to effective knowledge utilization. Performance pressure creates threat rigidity effects in teams, meaning that they default to using the expertise of high-status members while becoming less effective at using team members with deep client knowledge. Using a multimethod field study across two professional service firms to refine and test the proposed model, I  lso find that only the use of client-specific expertise (not the expertise of high-status members) enhances client-rated performance. This paper thus reveals a paradox affecting teams’ use of members’ knowledge: the more important the project, the less effective the team. This paper contributes to the emerging literature linking team-level expertise utilization (instead of just recognition) with performance outcomes and also adds a novel, team-level perspective to the literature on inter-firm relations.

This is close to being an organizational collaboration pathology – huh? Now, it’s clear that having some slack time to build up social capital is essential (for building up trust and more – we’re talking of forming, norming, storming phases in teams) while in reality teams don’t always get that time (it’s a fast-paced multi-project world after all).

But putting on the heat on teams with an overblown performance focus seems to aggravate effects we know by the name of group think (and the related fall-back to well-established patterns when the going gets rough). And group norms kill creativity:

Unfortunately groups only rarely foment great ideas because people in them are powerfully shaped by group norms: the unwritten rules which describe how individuals in a group ‘are’ and how they ‘ought’ to behave. Norms influence what people believe is right and wrong just as surely as real laws, but with none of the permanence or transparency of written regulations…the unwritten rules of the group, therefore, determined what its members considered creative. In effect groups had redefined creativity as conformity.

Now what role may social software play in this situation? I agree that just mimicking Xing or LinkedIn in the hope of supporting and facilitation intra-company knowledge networks is bound to fail (and more, it’s following a flawed paradigm, social networks in companies should be understood as emergent properties of this complex social system we call organization). Designing the knowledge environments (and tools) for smart and action-oriented workers tasked with creative jobs is not easy (and very dependent of actual context too), letting the connections between interdependent teams simply emerge is a challenge. Just think of the various relations we entertain to people not in our actual company network (freelancers, alumni, competitors and complementors, partners, …), these are complex systems too:


Pre-SUMMIT Interview with Craig Hepburn

I announced this before in this (german language) post, and now here’s part 1 of the video interviews I did at CeBIT in preparing the Enterprise 2.0 summit.

With Craig Hepburn of OpenText I talked about social capital, how email is for old people, locating and leveraging knowledge in the organizations, how OpenText is understanding the Enterprise 2.0 market and how they’re tailoring their offerings.

Bummer that both lighting and the noisy surroundings at CeBIT Hall 6 prohibited a better video quality, still it’s all about content isn’t it?