Wednesday, May 19, 2004

Collaboration and innovation

I don't think we've talked enough about this linkage. As Malcolm Gladwell says, innovation is
fundamentally social. Ideas arise as much out of casual conversations as they do out of formal meetings. More precisely, as one study after another has demonstrated, the best ideas in any workplace arise out of casual contacts among different groups within the same company.

How do we promote these casual contacts? One way, as Gladwell discusses, is through intelligent office design. But that only helps those that are actually located in the same building. And in buildings as large as APC HQ and GPC HQ, intelligent office design only goes so far.

This is the gap that social software of all sorts addresses. We've treaded carefully here so far, focusing on more concrete payoffs in other collaborative spaces. However, social software may be the glue that holds all of the other collaborative stuff together. We ignore it at our peril.


Blogger Scott said...

The devils advocate says:
Social software might be useful, but...would senior management see the concept of social software as a more "unproductive" approach to work-based collaboration? Would our good-intentioned attempt at a more casual collaboration tactic degrade quickly into discussions about the next kegger?
Management understands that when employees are on a break, at lunch or getting coffee that such social conversations may (and do) take place and don't care (or at least don't move to eliminate them). But provide the employees an "officially approved" tool for the "same" reason and we may need to duck and cover. (Did I use enough quotes up there?)
Thoughts? Questions? Answers? Any one want a mint?

8:24 AM  
Blogger Eric said...

Well, we provide telephones and we provide email. Is there any difference? You can take care of business matters, or you can talk about how the Cardinals took the Braves in the JD Drew trade. The concept of limited personal use prevails regardless of the tool. Management's job is to make sure that the work gets done and to provide tools that facilitate that effort, not to forbid the use of tools out of fear that they will be misused. Check the Penn State post above for more on that.

11:11 AM  
Blogger Eric said...

Another problem with social software may just be that the name stinks, much like RSS and Atom are worthless names that convey nothing about what the technologies do. Social software apparently brings up visions of ice cream socials or of the gadfly chattering aimlessly about nothing at a party.

Social software is about enhancing human interaction. Maybe we should call it Buzz, for all the worker bees communicating in and around the hive. Or PHI, for productive human interaction. Or HIP, for Human Interactivity Protocols.

Okay, those all stink too. Any suggestions from the peanut gallery?

11:23 AM  

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