When people talk about social media, they often refer to its most personal form, Facebook. But yesterday at the Webcom 2010 conference I realized that the profound business purpose of the many forms of social media is collaboration that leads to innovation.
When Walton Smith of consultant Booz Allen Hamilton gave us a glimpse of his knowledge management system, Hello, I realized how I had honed the mindset for working online with other people by updating my Facebook status, following links on Twitter, bookmarking on Delicious, debating on Linkedin groups, voting on Digg, writing this blog and my other online social interaction.
Some of my clients are moving toward tools like Sharepoint and Hello, but not fast enough for me–or their business.
I’ve been sold on collaboration ever since I heard Don Tapscott talk about his book Wikinomics a few years ago. Yesterday, I added his new book, Macrowikinomics, to my reading list. Don is still talking about the profound structural change our society is undergoing, which we’ve been hearing about for more than 30 years in books like Future Shock . While I sometimes feel overwhelmed by all the changes we’ve experienced in those years, more often I wish that the world was turning faster.
Companies struggling to climb out of the recession or seeking to compete more effectively in the shifting sands of world trade really need to grab on to collaborative tools. As Helix founder Dr. Cindy Gordon pointed out, collaboration is fostering innovation at companies like Cisco, IBM and Accenture. Their leaders appreciate the need fresh ideas and critical thinking from everyone in their organization, not just an isolated cadre of C-suiters.
Of course many people will be reluctant to speak up, until they see that their ideas are acknowledged, seriously considered by their peers and often acted on. What’s more, they must trust each other.
I think they also need access at work to Facebook and other social media that foster the collaborative spirit. As Shel Holtz said yesterday, employees need breaks to refresh, especially those who work long hours, deeply concentrate or are tethered to smart phones 24/7. A growing number enjoy Facebook. in the same way that people make personal phone calls or chat around the water cooler.
But there’s more to it. Many of the speakers gave examples of companies using social media to launch products, conduct research or defend themselves from criticism. But the most compelling business reason I heard for web 2.0 is to bring people together to become smarter, stronger organizations through collaboration.