Let’s say you implement an online social networking system in your organization, and adoption happens. Over time, does it become a giant echo chamber of groupthink? Does everyone eventually become connected to the point that no original thought occurs? I believe so. On the other hand, the potential massive increase in productivity that comes from knowing what others know (call it “network awareness”) is nothing to sneeze at.
But, to remain healthy, a person’s network must continually expand (and maybe even atrophy – new cells form, old cells die). My friend, Kathryn Everest, explains it this way: I meet someone new, we have a burst of energetic collaboration and breakthrough thinking, but our relationship normalizes over time, and our differing points of view begin to become similar. To get that new thinking fix again, that jazz factor, I need to make a connection with someone new. Social network science calls this extending your reach, and it’s critical to innovative thinking.
This makes me think of The Truman Show. If your network can only expand to the edge of your corporate bubble, then what’s the life expectancy of a corporation’s ability to innovate?
Right. That’s why there are books like Wikinomics.
Oh. And Twitter.
Those who start from the outside first probably benefit more than those who try to start from the inside first. Also, it’s WAY easier to justify the cost of setting up an external online social environment with your business partners and customers than it is with just employees alone. Of course, you must have an “inside out” culture to support it.