An artist’s illustration that social collaboration thrives at the Edge of Chaos at the transition region between chaos and order. It could be anything! So much for bananas and so much for evolution. Source Copyright: Work Monkey Labs
Social collaboration, collaborative improvisations, and innovation happen at the Edge of Chaos. The Edge of Chaos is a state between ‘complete order and no order at all’. A state or a region where most systems (Biological, Physical, Economic, and Social) operate, adapt, evolve and grow between total order and complete randomness or chaos.
The transition phase between chaos and order and somewhere at the Edge of Chaos is where new dynamic life cycles are born. It is thought to be the epicenter of our evolutionary processes, where old local structures are broken and new patterns of organization are born. The systems become self-organising and evolving on their own at this transition phase.
One such system within the reach of all us is the Internet and its culture. The Internet provides the space for creative conversations to happen all the time. The people behavior and the current internet culture is reminiscent of this state – Edge of Chaos.
In a recent discovery, it is understood that even complex unsolved mathematical problems can be solved by collaborative social conversations among collective minds from all over the world.
People have understood that newer areas, ideas, directions, and angles would not have been possible, had they not bounced their thoughts and ideas with others. For others, are people belonging to different disciplines and walks of life. A sense of altruism fills the air and it pays to be altruistic.
We will continue to evolve
Serendipity flows only quicker through a dense concentration of people (not just from a few bright minds) and our ability and capacity to solve our world’s problems only get enhanced. We will continue to evolve and we have not reached our potential yet.
Building those structures, which is so essential to be at the Edge of Chaos, creating dense social networks for social media collaboration and managing that knowledge is central to the focus here at Work Monkey Labs.
Social collaboration, Social networks, Crowds and Swarms
Please go ahead to read what we have done so far to manage that knowledge. So far so good.
The following is an extract from the original article published in ‘Warwick blogs’ by the same author in March early this year, 2017.
The figure is a simple free form sketch of a viral information flow among people in a closed network. Some are happy and some are not. The sketch was drawn using ‘Sketchbook’ from Autodesk.
I just happened to search the internet on the influence of social networks and social media at workplaces. And I bumped into this article from Gallup business journal, which happens to be a gem not just from the insights that we can gain, but there is much to learn from social network experts like Dr. Jon Kleinberg.
The article that I am talking about is “The power of social networks” from Gallup business journal. You can find the link above.
The article interviews Dr. Jon Kleinberg of Cornell University. Dr. Jon is a professor of Mathematics at Cornell University and a recipient of many awards including the Rolf Nevanlinna prize.
The Rolf Nevanlinna prize (May sound new to many) is awarded by the International congress of mathematicians for outstanding contributions in the field of Mathematics aspects of computational and information science. This award is given every four years.
Now, what interested me in this article, was Dr. Jon’s expert views on information cascades and the contagion theory in the social network, that exists in the offices. Why certain messages go viral and how information flows and thrives in the social network.
I have mentioned about the fine synergistic relationship between Social media and Social network, in my earlier posts. Both exist to complement each other. The underlying structure of the social network, embedded inside the social media, makes it (Social media) more acceptable among the masses.
Social media is an ‘attitude’, it is the medium through which people interact and share information with others.
By sharing and by interacting with others, a social network is formed. We need a medium, a tool, in the form of a social media to control and better able to structure the network and fine tune it. We then leave it to be self -organizing.
We cannot enforce any strict rules on a social network. People’s behavior, ties, and connections within the network is self-regulating and self-organizing. It is like an organism which evolves continuously.
Now having said that, it needs some incentive structures to be built inside it. We need to motivate the masses.
Incentive structures and benefits should be structured in such a way, that it mobilizes people for a long-term sustainable change.
Within a workplace context, the adopting social media and its usage is often termed as ‘Enterprise social networking’ or the ‘Corporate social network’. In the recent years, a lot has been written about the benefits of using social media but little importance has been given to the science and art of its implementation and adoption within organizations.
Firstly, it is a science because the implementation goes through a set of methodical procedures starting from organizational readiness to the final measures of success. The methods are the same as implementing any other enterprise systems in workplaces.
Secondly, it is an art because, convincing the employees and the wider organization to adopt corporate social network with the realm of fast and dynamically changing social and political landscape is nevertheless an art form.
Social media benefits drive implementation approaches
The biggest benefit of them of all, providing the context to the information, which often questions ‘who, why and what’ of information, the challenges and pitfalls is often missing in traditional knowledge management and knowledge sharing. This context to information, which is immediately applicable at work, is mostly tacit and hard to get. Social media in workplaces provide the context to that information.
Another important benefit, from using social media in workplaces, is the subtle art of building social capital among project teams, the unspoken bonds of social collaboration to get things done.
To realize all these benefits by adopting social media in workplace requires a different implementation approach and which is more of bottoms up than top-down and more artsy than science.
Implementing and adopting social media in workplaces is no easy task. Here are some best practices drawn from excellent organizations who have been front-runners in implementing social media and have realized the success adopting social media in their organizations.
Artificial intelligence is all the rage right now and one of its most significant areas of impact are bots.
Bots are basically conversational software robots. Most of the time, you will find them in messaging and chat applications, but since they’re very collaborative in nature, experts predict that bots will be applied in a variety of collaboration tools in the future.
Until now, bots have proven to be extremely useful. They help businesses automate conversations and tasks, schedule meetings, pay online, or get started with an app. All that without interacting with another human being. In 2017, bots are bound to start changing our workplaces too.
Here are some essential points to show you how bots will change workplace productivity and collaboration in the near future.
Workplace Productivity & Bots
Bots have an immense potential for professional productivity because they can help employees handle their tasks without having to switch them.
Research shows that switching tasks might take away over 40% of our focus. By centralizing features within a single bot, smart employers will allow their workers to make the most of their time and minimize the cognitive load of switching tasks.
An example of a bot that impacts productivity is the Tomatobot. The Pomodoro technique helps countless workers to break up their tasks into small productive chunks and focus on achieving more within a shorter period of time. Now there’s a bot to help them do it.
The productivity bot will send timer reminders straight to your Slack channel. The user can type in what they have completed at the end of each session and the bot will show them their accomplishments within a specific period of time.
Another interesting bot is Ace. It can track tasks, polls, expenses, and more features directly within Slack.
Trello for Slack is another interesting option for transferring information between one platform and another. Instead of switching from Slack to Trello, users can update cards directly from Slack. Moreover, the bot features plenty of buttons for many popular Trello tasks to help workers get more done in a shorter time.
Communication, Collaboration, and Bots
It shouldn’t come as a surprise that bots are also being considered for their potential in facilitating internal communications between employees. In many organizations, intranet systems work as central repositories or reference systems rather than tools for interactive engagement.
Workers left without the right collaboration resources find it hard to be productive in distributed teams.
And since remote work is booming, the problem of collaboration and communication is serious. Bots might provide an answer to that need. Organizations will soon be using bots for answering short culture-related questions or helping remote workers get in touch with the right person inside the company.
For example, bots will help remote users to see all the projects another user is working on, or projects that are being developed in a different department. The bot might suggest related projects or find the document a user needs.
An example of such a bot in Slackbot. One of the best bots available on the market, Slackbot is a personal assistant that lives inside the communication platform Slack.
I drew the above picture of two ants talking to each other. It is a simple doodle sketch of two ants.
I would like to comment and talk about the subject context behind this simple doodle sketch. Hope you all will appreciate it.
A single bee or an ant is not smart but colonies of them are. We can draw intriguing insights from their behavior. We must be thinking, a single ant should be very intelligent and confident. We have always seen it marching so confidently up the sugar bowl in the kitchen cabinet. It is probably executing a planned action. After all, we have seen ants making long winding lines, build elaborate ant hills and forage food like crazy.
‘It is not the case, a single ant is very incapable of accomplishing anything’ says Stanford University biologist, Deborah Gordon. She had written a good book titled ‘Ant encounters, interaction networks and colony behavior’. If you have the time, read it. It is available on Amazon. You can find the link here.
Then a question comes to our mind, how are they successful as species on earth for so long years. The answer lies in their group behavior. Colonies of ants also known as swarms are far more intelligent than a single ant on its own. Colonies of ants can accomplish tasks, which are practically impossible for single ants to even think of. For example, colonies of ants can identify the shortest possible route to the food source and they can even organize and allocate various tasks to other ants. They are able to do all this with something called ‘Swarm intelligence’.
Please read our blog post article: Swarm social media systems, intriguing swarm insights
It is not just with ants. There is a host of other insects and animals, which display the swarm intelligence. A school of Herring fish, for example, can coordinate their behavior collectively and turn their direction in a split second to avoid a threat. They do this action collectively. It turns out there is no single fish within the school that is aware of the big picture. Scientists term this behavior as the ‘Swarm theory’.
Swarm theory practicality
Many scientists are intrigued by this swarm theory for the past 20 years and research is underway for the past 10 years to gain insights from this intriguing behavior. Applications of swarm theory are enormous and can be used for wide applications in Artificial intelligence and Robotics to bring business efficiency.
Further, an interesting insight from the colony of ants is that none of the ants have a boss or a manager. The ants forage food, follow other ants, through a pheromone trail, and have countless interactions. They are self-organizing and collaborate among themselves. They have learned to adapt to this swarm behavior for millions of years. Their strengths lie in being together as a swarm and therein lies their success.
Please read our blog post article: Do ants have brains
Similarly, birds do not have a leader. Have you ever seen how migratory birds fly (There is Swarm theory in action!). There are countless pictures of them. Birds change the leadership often, as and when the lead bird gets tired. No bird is telling the other birds what to do. Birds just follow their neighbor as they fly across the sky. For once it is not about individual decision making. It is just blind following and trust on the neighbor birds, to coordinate their movement.
“Ideas can be life changing. All you need to open the door is one more good idea”
The above quote is from the American author Rim Rohn.
External Social collaboration has the potential to make those small hunches and ideas worthwhile to pursue. They can develop it into a workable idea and before you know, friendly collaborators will spur you to execute it. The intentions of utilizing external social collaboration networks are good but how much of this learning is used and diffused within the organizations? This is something we need to know. Nevertheless, there are certain principles that need following within workplaces to make idea generation fruitful for everybody.
Perhaps this is what companies are doing to spur innovation. A recent article from Harvard Business Review titled “A study shows how to find new ideas inside and outside the organization” talks about how employees in workplaces can generate new ideas by networking not only with fellow colleagues but also with experts and industry luminaries outside the organization. You can find the article here.
Big companies like Proctor and Gamble, Lego, and Bausch use employees who have the necessary skills to network externally to source ideas for them. Social media collaboration within the consumer space can be a huge help. The time and costs spent my employees’ networking and collaborating outside their workplaces sometimes outweigh the benefits of generating new ideas required for innovation.
Balance Internal and External networking
However, there is a catch. According to the findings, employees who network extensively outside the organization with their business partners, vendors, and industry experts are not necessarily productive. In addition, employees who network within their colleagues inside the organization are not completely devoid of new ideas either. There needs to be a balance.
Senior employees within the organization, network with a range of industry experts and they spend a considerable amount of time doing this. The amount of time spent outside the organization can hamper the proceedings of the internal meetings and inputs, where their ability is required. Sometimes, time spent outside can derail the efforts of time-constrained innovation that needs to happen within the organization. It was revealing to understand that 30% employees (Respondents) do not spend the time to learn from their external social collaboration.
This means they (30% of employees) do external networking in a casual way, which may or may not add value in the end.
External collaboration and building relationships outside the organization requires a lot of time. Learning and gaining valuable industry nitty gritty not only takes time, it is an art as well.
There is a concern that employees, who spend time externally this way, may not understand the innovation needs and priorities of their workplace in the first place.
Spending time on how to execute those ideas internally within the workplaces is equally important, if not more, feel most of the organizations. The irony is that, only when we spend time externally with counterparts outside the workplace, will we learn more from them.
Please read our blog post article, Benefits of social media in the workplace An employee perspective
The studies further point out that employees sitting at their desks all day and spending time only within their business units should not miss out opportunities to learn more from their colleagues in other units. In fact, there were more ideas generated, when employees collaborated with other employee groups. Sometimes, employees’ source of inspiration could be just right across the desk. We fail to recognize this fact.
Simple principles to follow
In such situations, how can organizations balance collaboration in external networking and internal networking? The answers lie in the following simple principles for external social collaboration within workplaces.
Let me explain these simple principles.
The manager needs to understand the ability and skill level of the employees
It is not necessary that the all the employees need to engage in external social collaboration. It is important to understand the current organization goals, priorities, and needs. External social collaboration activities need to align with the organizational goals. Managers should encourage both internal and external social collaboration and networking. It is imperative to understand and take up that approach that works best for them.