Does your organization approach using social media in its business as something to fear or as something to evangelize? Several recent observers note that incorporating social media into business involves changing the culture underlying communication patterns and decision-making in many large organizations.
Amber Naslund, for instance, tells us that adopting social media means changing the mindset on how to do business. In particular, she says using social media in business means “giving your customers a visible, valuable say in how you do things, and having the faith that doing that is just good business.” On the other hand, Caroline Dangson, of IDC contends enterprises aren’t yet sold on social media and that “there are executives still fearful of the transparency that comes with the social media spotlight.” Specifically, Caroline says that,
Corporate culture has everything to do with adoption of social media. I believe the number one factor preventing full adoption of social media is the lack of executive trust in employees. This culture is about control and creates a workplace of silos. This type of workplace is not set up to be social and the silos are barriers to worker productivity.
So, here social media sits, between fear and faith. Needless to say, the truth about social media’s implications for business design lies somewhere in the middle. The fact of the matter, as Todd Defren tells us, is that we need to begin seriously discussing “how Social Media Thinking will impact the greater whole of the company.”
As noted in an earlier post, keeping in mind the distinctions between formal, process-oriented organization and informal, practice-based organization is crucial in thinking through the collaborative challenges posed by social software for enterprises and designing for the experiences supported. We can learn a bit about the complexity of the challenges involved by considering a recent framework offered on social business design by the Dachis Corporation team and discussing the way it relates to a recent report on an experiment in enterprise social media at the Social Computing Lab of HP Laboratories.
The Dachis Framework on Social Business Design
The team at Dachis Corporation recently offered an initial peek at their approach to designing for social business, summed up in four archetypes and a design framework. David Armano, Jevon MacDonald, Kate Niederhoffer, and Peter Kim each provide an overview of what social business design means. Peter provides the most succinct description of the underlying framework when he notes,
Social business design is a mutually exclusive, collectively exhaustive way of considering how a corporation, business unit, or project can create and capture value from today’s emerging technologies and evolving operating environment.
The social business design framework offered by the Dachis team involves four basic cornerstones, referred to as archetypes and described by Kate Niederhoffer as follows:
- Ecosystem – a community of connections
- Hivemind – the socially calibrated mindset of individuals (culture)
- Dynamic Signal– the constant multi-faceted means of collaboration
- Metafilter– a method of finding signals in vast amounts of noise
I’m sure the Dachis team’s take on each of these archetypes of social business design will evolve over time. David just recently expanded on the Dynamic Signal. In the rest of this post I want to take a look at the WaterCooler project report (WaterCooler: Exploring an Organization Through Enterprise Social Media) offered by Michael J. Brzozowski of the Social Computing Lab at HP Laboratories, and explore its relevance to a couple of the social business design archetypes detailed by the Dachis team. My purpose is not to argue for or against the archetypes, but to stimulate more specific discussion around the Dachis framework.
HP’s WaterCooler (Dynamic Signal, Metafilter, Ecosystem)
WaterCooler is a tool developed by the HP Social Computing Lab, and deployed within HP, to aggregate shared internal social media resources, such as blogs, wikis, microblogs, discussion forums, social bookmarks, and cross-reference each with the organization’s directory. In other words, WaterCooler offers a window into the interplay of formal and informal organization within HP. It is limited in illustrating the social business design archetypes to the extent that it only aggregates social media content made explicitly public to all employees and consultants at HP. Nevertheless, Brzozowski’s report on the tool’s use does provide several key insights into how the archetypes relate to designing for social business relationships. It speaks to Ross Mayfield’s recent observation about companies monitoring social media conversations about their brand. Ross noted that, “Before they collaborate with the community, they have to collaborate with themselves.”
One of the guiding goals of WaterCooler was to design for attention, so that users of social media within HP could more readily develop awareness of others whose expertise and interests coincided with their own (think Dynamic Signal). In other words, rather than provide an enterprise tool for finding knowledge, the goal was to make it easier to find people with some affinity to the searcher’s goals and interests.
The WaterCooler team developed a range of filters (think Metafilter) to make developing such awareness of others easier. The following filters were provided:
- By novelty and popularity: tracks clicks on posts, presenting the most recent posts read by a certain number of users on the front page and in a “popular items” feed
- By person: authors of posts are cross-referenced with the employee directory, making it possible to filter by person, organizational unit, and job function
- By topic: each post is indexed to allow people to search and create feeds of new posts matching specific keywords
- By people tags: WaterCooler allows users to tag one another regardless of whether the person tagged publishes content using social media within HP
Thomas Vander Wal notes that the recent Enterprise 2.0 conference failed to offer sessions on tagging and how organizations are using tags in their social software implementations. Tagging people in WaterCooler allows users to support distributed teams that span business units. Tags also provide the basis for public profiles of WaterCooler users, even allowing anyone to apply a tag to anyone else. Given the public nature of personal profiles, WaterCooler also permits each user to retain control by removing tags considered inappropriate or inaccurate by that person. In that way, it embeds a concern for sociality and the comfort level among users that Vander Wal often speaks about.
WaterCooler restricts tags to a set of namespaces — hobby, interest, product, people, skill, or team. Brzozowski notes that some people were not satisfied with the restrictions on tagging, wanting increased freedom to tag, whereas others preferred increased rigidity. Of particular interest is his synopsis of the overall use of people tagging.
We were also surprised to find some people tagging themselves with people’s names. These incidences are isolated and these tags are not reused on other people, which may suggest some people want to use WaterCooler as a social network (tagging themselves with the names of their friends). Others have done the inverse, simulating Twitter’s follower relationship by tagging people, e.g., followed by tim , and using the group of tagged people as a filter.
In addition, the WaterCooler application programming interface (API) was documented and opened up to users to modify for their own purposes, providing additional flexibility for informal uses of the dynamic signals in the event stream.
However, the most interesting aspect of Brzozowski’s report for me is its findings on how WaterCooler affected the Ecosystem of connections in HP. Using blog comments on the 3,000 blogs in HP as a control condition, the WaterCooler team analyzed commenting as a proxy for (and subset of) readership. The WaterCooler team used social network analysis to compare the network of users commenting on blogs to the network of users reading one another’s posts through WaterCooler. You can compare the two following graphics to see the overall findings.
The major finding is that in the blog commenting network 30% of comments are directed to authors outside the commenter’s business group. In other words, the Hub and Spoke model appears only slightly altered by blog usage alone. In the WaterCooler readership network, 69% of readers are directing their attention outside their own business group. It is unclear from the research report why simple readership, or views rather than comments, was not used in the blog counts. However, the overall point seems to remain salient.
Posted by Larry R. Irons
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