“Fools,” said I, “You do not know.
Silence like a cancer grows.” Simon and Garfunkel
If we’ve learned anything over these past six, going on seven years of covering the internal social collaboration sector, it’s that the social web has become a catalyst for intellectual curiosity. Tribes are forming everywhere with the growing popularity of niche sub-groups from LinkedIn to Google Communities. As quickly as you can say “add me,” this socially savvy collective is connecting, learning, and sharing with effortless, timeless ease. In other words, the long tail of interesting projects and topics is attracting talent to shared interest groups with like-minded professionals every moment around the social globe.
The future of the enterprise is already here albeit unevenly distributed in blossoms of network connections. What are not unevenly distributed, are the individuals that “get” social collaboration and new modes of working. Small networks of professionals have always been present in the business world, but what’s different in the social era is the degree to which strong bonds and real relationships are forged on a foundation of meritocracy and reciprocal trust. Not only do we know who you are, we observe your behavior in the network, and make judgments about your contributions and motives. And absent an economic incentive to work together, individuals are sharing for the sheer pleasure of learning and teaching.
With a healthy, organic socio-collaborative corporate philosophy and pleasing UX platforms to foster it, talent will not stray outside the corporate walls for intellectual stimulation. The corporate town hall will be buzzing with ideas and positive energy. But, if your internal network is deathly quiet, or worse – non-existent, you can count the hours before your best performing future-worker talent connects itself to that outside world permanently, leaving you wondering why you didn’t see the big shift soon enough to make the change that could save your company.
The key to keeping your talent in-house and focused on organizational goals is to ensure the company’s mission is in sync with individual passions and interests. Command and control has been rendered obsolete in a galaxy of independent thinkers. It can putter on in the short term, but will never survive the long term.
I was poring over the lengthy back and forth between Nick Carr and Clay Shirky over the future of the book publishing industry a few weeks ago. At the same time, I stumbled upon this timeless piece by Boston Consulting Group founder Bruce Henderson about the difficulty of effecting change in a large organization. PUB DATE: 1968 Henderson points out there are predominantly three dependent reasons why companies fail to change and ultimately fail altogether: executive management doesn’t recognize or believe there is a fundamental shift underway important enough to affect the business, leadership doesn’t champion the change, and by the time they figure it out, it’s too late. In the final analysis, what hit me like a ton of Blockbuster brick and mortars is how foolish it will be for large enterprises to reject the premise (and practice) of social collaboration. In the same way that media content is being re-purposed, repackaged, and re-distributed, so it will be for the knowledge assets of knowledge workers. The degree to which executive management can recognize these important trends and retain its intellectual capital will be key to managing the shift.
Bonus: A recent study by the CEB links healthy collaboration to breakthrough performance.