How social networks can add value to innovation in workplaces

flow through innovation in workplaces
Ideas and information flow through social relationships. We need to be open enough to grab them. When you think of innovation as a flexible process, it is more likely to succeed than purely as an investment vehicle for returns. The above is an adapted figure. I used Artflow to sketch it. It is open for interpretation.

Social relationships whether we know it or not can get us access to information and resources. In addition, of course, influence as well. The degree and extent of our relationships with people determine how innovations surface from the dark and how rapidly they can be diffused among network members.

Social relationships within networks play a huge role particularly during the early stages of innovation process and the kind of relationships and the structure of the networks in terms of how dense they are further promotes innovation.

“The influence of social relationships on innovation stems particularly from two obvious reasons” says Olav Sorenson from the Yale school of management in his working paper on “Role of social networks in innovation’ published in NBER (National bureau of economic research).

The first one is that innovation process requires inputs, sharing of expertise and contribution from multiple people. Moreover, such information and people are distributed across the world. Rarely can we say that innovation or the outcome of innovation results from one single individual working all alone.

Secondly, there is no guarantee that new ideas will succeed. It is unpredictable and we need to accept that there is a great degree of uncertainty. It is difficult for investors and entrepreneurs to predict the outcome of their investment choices.

In such situations, they rely on their instincts as well as the trust they place another person in the social network for them to confide, discuss and take another course of action. They rarely rely on rational or logical calculations.

In effect, it is to say that the strength of social relationships can influence the success or failure of innovation. There needs to be a shift from thinking innovation as purely an investment vehicle for returns to a more process oriented approach, which can be potentially, be shaped, and molded as we move along a more flexible process.

Measuring the quality and pattern of relationships within a social network has always been a challenge. Understanding the depth of relationships that people have within social networks has been difficult as it relies on the responses of the network members themselves. Capturing such responses from network members is expensive, more over the ‘give and take’ in a relationship is captured at a snapshot in time, and this may not be accurate.

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Social intranet– A simple philosophy of new wine in old bottle

social intranet
The connected intranet. Social intranet needs to understand the employee and the team’s collaborative behavior to succeed. I drew the sketch using Artflow on Android. It is open for interpretation.

Intranets back in those days were a simple internal website within companies serving company webpages. Over the years, they have transformed into a full-fledged social intranets if we go by the claims and working operational models projected by vendors and industry practitioners in this space.

In this post, I would like to explore the buzz around social intranet and the philosophy behind it.

According to a pew-research study, as of 2016, about 2/3rds (about 69%) of the American population use social networking sites. The percentages might be slightly lesser for other parts of the world. Such massive usage is slowly catching up with the usage of social intranet within organizations as well.

Integration of internal business processes within organization is something of great value and could be a turning point for their adoption and usage considering they have a close running competition with their brothers – Enterprise social networking tools.

On this point, I would like to say, intranets have come a long way. In the 1990’s intranets were simple internal websites serving company staff directory and pages for company policies and procedures.

Intranets these days have become more social with the addition of collaborative features. They allow employees to share, connect, and interact with other colleagues in the organization. With time and ‘attitude’, simple intranets have become ‘Social intranets’. They serve good for the employees of the organization.

The contention is that there is a thin line that separates social intranets with the enterprise social networking tools with lot of overlapping features and functionalities. There are hardly any crucial distinguishing features now.

Social intranet fosters a collaborative spirit among the employees, which in turn aids in improving the productivity of the organization. This brings us to the part of understanding the philosophy behind it. Which is commendable and quite simple.

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5 Effective Profile Tips To Market Yourself On LinkedIn

Linkedin profiles 'have a smile'
Remember to smile. A profile picture needs to be your face. Research says, a well written and optimized LinkedIn profile summary can attract  5 times more views and attention than before. “Optimizing your profile with the right keywords is crucial for LinkedIn success” says Abhyank our guest author. You can find his post below. Artflow on android was used to draw the above sketch. It is open for interpretation.

Your career basically starts with your first job, which will give you the experience to develop yourself and contribute to bigger and better things, maybe at your second job or the job after that. Hence, it is vital to start off strong and get the ideal first job, so that you can shape your career accordingly. This is where LinkedIn comes in, which has undoubtedly become the go-to place for job-seekers to look for jobs and network.

A lot of people simply create profiles and wait patiently for job opportunities to come to them. This is where most of them go wrong. There are over 450 million users on LinkedIn, so it is crucial to stand out from the rest of the applicant pool and take strong steps towards getting that dream job you’ve always wanted.

Melanie Pinola, a Harvard Alumni and editorial manager at Zapier, once said, “A huge number of jobs that are filled are never advertised to the public, or if they are, they’re filled by people who have a connection to the employer.”

So it is absolutely paramount to create an active profile so that you can get noticed by the recruiters and network better.

So how to go about it?

Read this post to figure out how to use LinkedIn’s functionalities to rank high on the job search results so that you are exposed to more job prospects.

Here are 5 effective profile tips to market yourself on LinkedIn.

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3 Digital Trends to Watch Out For in 2018

Digital robot, Ai
The interconnected AI. The future trend will be towards AI assistants and augmented reality with big mobile phone manufacturers rivaling each other on service oriented apps. “The possibilities of innovation are endless” says Gemma Reeves our guest author. Her post is below. Artflow on Andriod was used to draw the sketch above and is open for interpretation.

Now that we are on the last stretch of 2017, tech enthusiasts and the market in general are expecting about what could be the next best thing that could take the digital world by storm this 2018.

So far, 2017 had its fair share of digital trends that can be more or less considered revolutionary. One of those is the surge of wearable gadgets that are used to track one’s health and overall fitness lifestyle. The most famous examples of these are FitBit and Apple’s SmartWatch.

The market also saw some improvements from Artificial Intelligent (AI) assistants such as Siri, Alexa and Google’s own AI assistant. Most notably, these AI assistants are not just limited on smartphones, but they can also be used in smart home devices such as wireless speakers.

So what could still be in store for the digital industry this 2018? The possibilities of innovation are endless, and the industry definitely has a lot more to offer by next year and the upcoming years or so, such as:

More uses for Augmented Reality (AR)

Pokemon GO took the world by storm when it was introduced in 2016. From then on, smartphone users were introduced to Augmented Reality (AR) on a wider and more entertaining scale, and developers see a lot of potential uses for this.

Aside from gaming, AR is expected to be used in navigation, marketing and information systems in the near future – possibly starting in 2018. Users can simply turn on their camera, point it to certain streets and find information as to what shops and offices are situated there.

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Brainstorming is everybody’s business – A practical guide to realize your streak of brilliance

Brainstorming Cups
The brainstorming cups. There has been a lot of research done on the efficacy of brainstorming and how it needs to be conducted in the recent years. I think it is one of the fundamental social aspects of information, both inside and outside workplaces and in the coffee shops of the world. It is ingrained in our popular culture. I drew the above sketch using Artflow. It is available on Android.

The conference room was buzzing with activity. It was the monthly idea generation meeting for gathering ideas and identifying the promising ones for the company wide cost reduction program. The program was gathering steam and the pressure was looming with approaching deadlines. Everyone is expected to contribute. Importantly, the idea generation and the subsequent project delivery activities are bundled into their performance objectives.

This is a typical scenario in many of the offices of the large global corporate companies and even smaller companies. Some of us can relate to this scenario. A colleague at some point, a fellow operations manager retorted ‘How do we expect us to be so creative in generating promising ideas with tight deadlines, my team is spent’

Many of us would contend with this typical scene and would have participated or facilitated it as leaders. Readers, we are talking about a ubiquitous process called ‘brainstorming’. A process that gets unfolded day in and day out in countless conference rooms, meeting halls, workshops and sometimes even virtually across the globe with a diverse group of people across different cultures participating in it.

I think the conference rooms around the world would die, lack lustre without them.

Brainstorming, as a social exchange of information is an age-old process. The mutual sharing of discoveries, knowledge and making connections is a prerequisite for our evolution.

This social exchange of information and a spontaneous contribution of ideas whether creative or not had existed even in historical times between the King and his council of ministers and in other places of congregation. In modern times, just like other social science terms it has taken the garb of ‘brainstorming’, a term used in modern workplaces. Thanks to Alex Faickney Osborn who first coined the word in 1953 along with a set of practices and principles.

We find vivid pictures of brainstorming in all forms in our popular culture. From the talk sessions that happen in the grand dining hall with floating candles in the Harry Potter series, to the ‘anything can happen over coffee’ coffee shops and tea shops around the world, we as people, whether strangers or not, unconsciously indulge in brainstorming. We are hard-wired to do it and it is ingrained in our popular culture.

It is not chaos nor it is madness but there is a method and rhythm to it. We will discuss it. There is an occasional ‘brilliance’ and other times it turns out to be a damp squib.

Nonetheless, we all embrace it affectionately as brainstorming. Literally, brainstorming does not mean to ‘storm the brain’. It is far from it. It seeks a certain harmony and rhythm. On the contrary, when you rest your brain, you perform better.

Being one of the most important ‘Social aspects of information’, there are criticisms as well as improvisations.

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The Bitcoin is a social money network and is as scarce as gold

bitcoin
The value of Bitcoin has gone up from zero to 120 billion USD in 9 years since its inception in 2008. Nobody knows who created the ‘Bitcoin’. The creator has handed over and disappeared since then and goes with the pseudonym “Satoshi Nakamoto”. As part of its creation, the world’s first ‘Block Chain’ database was devised. Image credit: Pixabay

Podcast special feature

“Bitcoin is a social movement” says The New York Times technology reporter, Nathaniel Popper, and author of a book on Bitcoin called ‘Digital gold’.

In the podcast radio talk, heard on ‘Fresh air’- NPR, Terry Cross talks to Nathaniel on how Bitcoin has emerged from an underground currency to a system where major financial institutions and banks are looking at using its decentralized network. Thanks to NPR org.

Please find the essence of the talk below. For those of us who do not understand what Bitcoin is, the below essence of the podcast can be helpful.

Bitcoin can be understood on a number of layers, says Nathaniel. From its initial journey, where in participants were able to buy drugs, do black-marketing, shrouded in privacy and secrecy to its current recognition as the world’s decentralized cryptographic digital payment, Bitcoin has come a long way.

It is pointing to a direction where money is going; or needs to be.

Its origins can be traced back to the late 2008. Scientists, worried about the then internet privacy and the distrustful central financial institutions, created an anonymous digital currency for the public good.

Bitcoin is a digital token. It consists of a vast network of decentralized computers and it lives inside it. People can use this digital token to buy, sell, and transact on the internet with a network of widely accepted places, just like any other currency.

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How context based social networks can bridge the gaps in organizational silos

Dolphins leap and have friendly interaction
Dolphins are very intelligent and highly social creatures. They bridge the gaps by teaching, cooperating and helping others. They frequently keep leaping over waves to save energy as there is less friction in the air. This helps them to explore their environment. Image credit: Pixabay

The National Geographic channel, was airing an hour-long program on what actually led to 9/11 or ‘The September 11 attacks’. Though it was aired several times in the past, I did happen to get a chance the other day to watch it until the end. Very interesting.

The program narrates a sequence of events that led to the attack. The prior intelligence that was available to the government agencies could have thwarted the attack (See Wikipedia).  However, it did not happen.

Why?

Clearly, there was no communication between the agencies. They agencies did not collaborate and they operated in silos. Even on the day of the attacks, there were gaps in communication and the right information was not with the right people.

Such gaps do exist in modern global corporations as well.

There is huge potential at the juncture of the business units for social collaboration to thrive and help. Nevertheless, is anyone taking notice?

With the constraints of history, cultural norms and work practices most of the established companies are not able to utilize the benefits of social networks in the workplace. The once siloed business units of these established companies are finding a way to harness the collaborative power of social networks that lie in the gaps.

Moreover, in the gap lies the panacea.

The authors, in their article  titled “Practical social networks“ published in the Harvard Business review, prescribe a very practical approach on how to derive value from social networks based on the nature of work performed within an organization. You can find the article here.

It could be a panacea for us to be more practical and move away from our constraints of cultural norms and history to look at collaborating with each other in new light. Though the solution is practical, it does offer a way out and move a step towards or navigate the murky waters for a more coordinated behavior for achieving our goals.

There are other benefits from an employee perspective, which cannot be based on the nature of work performed such as building social capital and the sense of belonging to be part of a community. Moreover, they cannot be ignored. Such aspects of social networking for employee interaction in workplaces are important to boost employee morale.

Still there are others, which are more critical from the organizational standpoint such as knowledge sharing within a context based on social interactions, collaborative problem solving, and the successive iteration of ideas leading to insight cannot be overlooked.

Having said this, the leadership team needs to think clearly on what goals they want to achieve through social networks, the pattern of connectivity and collaborative behavior that best suits their current nature of work.

There are work practice challenges, which pose many questions. The question of whether employees would be able to keep up with the relationship demands of their colleagues, lingers on. Keeping up with the emails, phone calls and meetings can take a toll on their productivity leave alone creating distractions and draining their own energy.

Based on the above challenges, the authors’ argument is that social networks need to be implemented where it is needed in the organization and that uniquely benefits the organization.

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The components of a social network

Components of a network

Understanding how social network operates within the context of social collaboration requires understanding of an interdisciplinary framework consisting of subjects as diverse computers, mathematics, Sociology, Psychology, and Ethnography.

In effect, it requires the understanding of the inter-relationships between people, organizations, and societies as a whole.  We can consider individuals, organizations, or groups as separate units.  The key is to understand the ties and interactions that happen within these units.

Implementation of a social network with enabling technology is complex.  It is complex because, the interactions and the ties between the units is continuously evolving and self-organizing.

Let us consider a social network model called the Albert Barabesi model to understand this.  The model is the fundamental principle on which current day ‘internet’ works through its associative links connecting one web page to another.  The model works on scale-free networks.  Meaning, the networks can scale by associating themselves with each other in the network and grow exponentially.  Scale free networks correspond to power law distributions.  It is similar to how the inbound links on the internet websites operate.

The Barabesi social network model has two parts to it.  The first part is the number of new nodes attached to it.  Nodes could be people or groups.  The second part is the number of connections connecting the new nodes.

The greater the nodes and connections, the more likely the social network will grow.  It is like a catch 22 situation, when there is greater social collaboration; there is every chance that the connecting social network will also grow.

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The symbiotic relationships of the Coral reefs – A model social network for the future

coral

Coral reefs around the world are great tourist attractions. Nature provides some of its greatest lessons in some of its unlikeliest places.

The coral reefs are filled with immense bio-diversity with millions of distinct species of tiny organisms all living in harmony and teaching us the virtues of being altruistic, helping each other in difficult circumstances, to adapt and collaborate for mutual benefit and sustenance.

Back in the 1980’s a very popular television video series called ‘The undersea world of Jacques Cousteau’ was aired on television. The series was telecasted every Sunday. Some of us would know it. The legendary Jacques Cousteau, a filmmaker, explorer, and researcher, hosted it. Jacques had received several awards including the National Geographic special gold medal.

As a middle-schooler, I was biding time for my parents’ nod just to watch the television series. Watching an underwater film with explorers venturing the depths of the ocean was rare and a treat during that time. The videos presented an incredible view of the marine biodiversity of our planet and the content was excellent. It was educational, informative and at the same time awe-inspiring.

At that age, the term ‘Bio-diversity’ seemed alien to me and I hardly knew what it was. However, the pictures and memories are still vivid.

Now with knowledge, advancement and the internet, our awareness has only expanded. It was not just for the educational content, such videos at a very fundamental level helps us understand how the marine diversity of our planet influences it. It is intricately connected to the natural cycles of the earth and helps regulate our climatic conditions.

The clown fish is normally found in the Coral reefs
The clown fish is normally found in the Coral reefs. I used Sketchbook to draw the picture.

We all know that 2/3rds of the earth’s surface is covered with water. A vast number of marine organisms live in the ocean. Researchers are still not able to come to terms with their numbers. It is so complex that there are unexplored depths of the ocean. Some are obvious like the ‘fish’ and still there are others hidden at the edges of the ocean that perform marvelous jobs.

These marine organisms actually help in building new land and some even extend the shorelines (Like the Atoll) by just recycling waste.

We are talking about the humble Stony coral, which creates new land on the ocean through its own excretion. Although its use comes after its death, the tiny marine animal grows in vast colonies at the edge of the ocean.

A theoretical state called the ‘edge of chaos’ prevails at the edge of the ocean . A state neither too rigid nor too loose, enabling molecules to collaborate for new life to evolve. That is exactly what happened to the vast colonies of the Stony coral. They collaborated with other species and evolved.

During its course of life, the Stony coral builds a calcium-based exo-skeleton. This exo-skeleton is so strong and stable that it can remain pristine for hundreds of years even after its host organism; the Stony coral is long dead.

In effect, the Coral reef is a stable ground – building new lands at the edges of the ocean. Thus, millions of these calcium-based exo-skeletons joined to form a Coral reef.

We just need to take a step back and look at it from an inter-disciplinary point of view. These tiny organisms were actually building a scalable network, a dense structure for millions of other organisms to thrive and evolve. This remarkable structure happens at the edge of chaos and that too in ocean waters that are not rich in nutrients.

There are millions of distinct species, which live in these coral reefs around the world. The ‘Great barrier reef’ in Australia is the greatest and biggest organic bio-structure in the world.

‘The tiny organisms and plants that live on the Coral reefs actually recycle the nutrients’ says Steven Johnson in his book “where good ideas come from’. You can find the book here. Scientists have actually studied this seamless flow of energy within the Coral reefs Eco-system.

A symbiotic relationship exists between the Stony coral and the algae that thrive in these waters.

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