In the recent years, there has been a lot written about social collaboration within organizations. Both employees and managers within workplaces can realize enormous benefits through social collaboration.
The benefits of social collaboration go beyond the obvious oft-repeated ones like social interaction among employees and community building. The benefits have positive business impact and the primary among them is the enhanced knowledge, and information employees gain for collaborative problem solving.
What is social collaboration in workplaces?
Now having said that, we can ask the question, what is social collaboration in workplaces?
Social collaboration in workplace is all about a group of people interacting and sharing information to achieve common goals. Such collaborative processes finds acceptance in a natural ubiquitous medium like the corporate intranet space, where Information and ideas disseminate quite fast.
The concept of ‘social collaboration’ although not new, emphasizes the fact that ‘ideas are all around us’ we need to be open enough to see them. No one-person need to have all the expertise in the world to solve the problems. People do not operate in silos. When they join and collectively add their thought processes and ideas, it is bound to value add to the entire process and probably turn it to a newer direction which would have been not so obvious if they (people) were on their own.
Social collaboration in workplaces is also known by with the word ‘Enterprise networking’ and is associated with software tools called ‘corporate social networks’ or ‘Corporate social media’.
Benefits of social collaboration leading to positive business impact
Many Fortune 100 companies like IBM and Intel have been at the forefront adopting corporate social networks within their organizations. From an organizational perspective the benefits are many and they all have positive business impact in the workplaces.
The following lists some of the benefits of social collaboration in workplaces.
- Context to information
- Iteration of ideas leading to innovation
- Building social capital among employees
We will look at them one by one.
Context to information
Context adds the human element to the information. It is easy to find appropriate information when you add context to it. Traditional knowledge management systems excel in knowledge generation, elicitation, and capture but finding knowledge, which is immediately applicable, would be difficult. Context to information answers the questions of ‘who’ ‘what’ and ‘how’ related to the information. Context also provides the ‘Know how’, the user’s knowledge and experiences on the challenges and issues surrounding the information. Such information enhances the immediate applicability of that information.
Employee interaction through corporate social networks provides a channel for providing the much-needed context to the information.
Successive iteration of ideas leading to innovation
We all have ideas and hunches. For hunches to develop and mature to a full-fledged workable idea, it needs others perspectives, experiences and expert knowledge as well.
Through sharing of information, we generate new ideas. Social collaboration facilitates successive iteration of new ideas and new insight there by leading to innovation. When we reflect our own experiences and knowledge with others, a new insight is born.
After a series of such interactions leading to new ideas and insight, the process of innovation kicks in resulting in the design, development and final production or the commercialization of the idea.
For example, a technical representative working in a call center might come up with a path breaking idea. If the idea is not shared with others in the workplace, it will remain as his or her personal knowledge. Social collaboration through corporate social networks facilitates sharing of such tacit information. Once we share it with others, it becomes ‘organizational knowledge’ and there is every chance for it to succeed to a workable idea for innovation.
Building social capital among employees
Social capital is the degree of positive influence a person has on others within a group – the invisible bond that binds employees to work together. Social collaboration through corporate social networks has a tremendous positive business impact on building social capital among employees. Social capital cannot be forced or controlled.
Employees want to work together often in critical projects not just because they are friends. There is mindshare and like-minded employees want to work together in projects. This is a good sign and a tremendous boost to projects and initiatives that are critical and important for the organization to accomplish.
Usage of social networks encourages employees towards building social capital. Within an organizational context, poking fun and sharing a joke with others is sometimes important to build that essential social capital. Employees should have the freedom to talk about their stories on failures and accomplishments. Such free talk and interaction bonds employees together.
Social collaboration in workplaces summarizes the adage ‘the whole is greater than the sum of parts’. We need not have all the expertise in the world to solve our problems. Good ideas are all around us. We just need to participate, be open, and contribute in discussions. When we collectively pool our thought processes, we will be able accomplish more than we would have imagined and faster too.
- Collaboration and the social organization from Harvard Business review. You can find the article here.
- Why no one uses the corporate social network. You can find the article here.
- Social collaboration from Wiki. You can find the article here.
This article first appeared on SAP by the same author.
Completed Masters in IT for manufacturing at the University of Warwick, UK and a PRINCE 2 certified practitioner.
My interests include collaborative innovation, group dynamics, Idea hubs and work life balance. I am open to your suggestions.
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