The Human brain helps us to unravel the complexity of the social networks. It can spontaneously access information and help us make intelligent decisions and appropriate responses for acceptable social outcomes.
In a recent research paper published in ‘Nature – Human behavior’ author Carolyn Parkinson of the University of California talks about how the brain seems to encode the messages we send when meeting familiar people and their position in the social network. This may not seem like a breakthrough immediately but then the author says this has implications in the way of how we can use this information to understand an individual’s standing in the social network.
In addition, this research can help behavioral studies on how our knowledge of a person’s social standing in a social network can make changes in our attention, empathy, and trust on that person. The brain region where this information is recorded is the higher order pre-frontal cortex and there is a spontaneous access to it.
We interact with many individuals on a daily basis. Keeping track of our acquaintances and our relationships with others is no mean task. Sometimes our friends and relatives will have second degree and third degree relationships with their friends and relatives. It becomes complex as we go on extending the chain. Now in this complexity, tracking our own relationships and the extended relationships we have with others (not in a sense of self-interest) requires some degree of understanding the relationships.
The question is can the brain in its natural state help us?
Yes, says the research conducted by Carolyn Parkinson of University of California. Thanks to the Mo Costandi of Scientific American to bring this information to light.
FMRI on 21 MBA Students
Parkinson and her colleagues from Dartmouth College surveyed 275 first year MBA students. In the survey, the questions where directed specifically towards their social habits. It included how they preferred mingling with the crowd and with whom they preferred to hang around with and visit their homes. Their preference in attending social events and so on.
They measured the responses in three different ways. The first one looked at the ‘degrees of separation‘ from one another. The second one looked at ‘their closeness to well-connected individuals’ in the social network” and the third ‘the extent of their closeness with aloof individuals’.
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.
What kind of workplaces promote innovation?
You can expect employees to drive innovation in environments where there are fewer bureaucratic restraints and many opportunities for calculated risk. Innovation can only happen with a well-structured management system in place. Otherwise, experimentation can become too risky and great ideas might not get implemented.
In a survey by McKinsey, 94% of senior executives said that it’s the people and corporate culture that drive innovation.
Hierarchical structures where the decision-maker is difficult to reach and the decision-making process is not transparent do not foster innovation. That’s why employees need a degree of autonomy to execute actions and set their innovation goals.
Employee autonomy and accountability are the foundation for innovation.
These two values provide the essential framework that supports the innovation process among employees. An autonomous workplace gives individuals and teams ownership of their ideas and grants them the freedom to make key decisions.
Here are 5 tips to help you build a culture of innovation that gives your employees more autonomy.
Explain the ‘why’ behind the goal
The first step for managers who want to instill a greater autonomy among their employees is to explain why the goal assigned to the team has value. Most often, managers tell their employees what they need to do, failing to explain why it’s important or how it fits into the larger picture.
It’s hard to commit to a goal if you don’t see why it’s a good idea in the first place. The value of the goal might not be as obvious to your team as it is to you. So make sure to explain the ‘why’ behind the goal and help employees understand how their actions contribute to the overarching goals of the organization.
There are social interactions everywhere. According to the Global Web Index, as of Jan 2016, there are about 3.4 billion internet users in the world. And within that, there are about 2.3 billion active social media users. Interactions through social media have become ubiquitous and so is the immense amount of data that is generated through it.
Many popular social networks like Facebook have begun to use this data to know about their users to deliver personalized feed to suit their interests and behavior and the situation is no different in Enterprise social networks as well.
Even today with the enormous amount of data that is generated through social media channels, leaders will have to struggle with the implications of big data. Analyzing and gleaning information from the data will become key factor for competition as well as rise in productivity, innovation and increase in consumer surplus says the Mckinsey in their report “Big data: The next frontier for innovation, competition, and productivity”.
Many people from senior leadership teams to the people in the technology world talk about ‘Big Data’. Big data is not a buzzword for smarter data analysis to gain insight. Therefore, what exactly is Big data, what does is it mean for us and how can we use the insights gained from such analysis in the realm of social networks. The data analysis and insights gained is significantly different from what managers might generate from regular analytics.
Big data in social media
Big data is all the voluminous and unstructured data from a wide ranging sources in the form of click stream data from websites, social media data like ‘Likes’, Tweets and ‘Blog posts’ etc. and from video entertainment as well. Just to give you an idea, Google processes about 24 petabytes of data and not all of this in rows and columns. Sometimes organizations also take into account the real time information as it occurs in radio frequency identification systems and make changes as they happen.
The consumers as well as working professionals in the organizations have begun to realize the potential value and the intelligence that can be derived from the vast amount of data that is generated through social media conversations.
Big data applications largely depend on their ability to analyze this large and unstructured data and handle the scale of the geometric growth of the social networks. Social networks generate conversations and there is context attached to these conversations. It is this context to information from various expert users is what makes knowledge sharing through social media tools so invaluable. Finding specific information in this vast sea of billions of conversational messages is no easy task. Big data in social networks together with social analytics need to go hand in hand in finding out the specific information we need.
A certain portion of productivity and collaboration comes from within the stellar team members you hire for the job. If you have budding, innovative minds who are eager to work together to move mountains for your business, you’ve already won half the battle. The only thing you should be concerned about is whether or not their office environment is actually stifling their abilities. After all, if you put an astronaut in a lawyer’s seat, would she know what she was doing?
If you want to make the most out of your workplace talent, you need to set the proper stage they’ll need to perform. A few small changes can make a world of difference in enhancing everyone’s ability to work to the fullest extent.
Space to Move
Your employees might spend a significant amount of time sitting around their computers, or even emailing each other. When they’re doing this, the need to have enough space to set up and work on what they’re working on. It’s hard to get much done when you’re bumping elbows with your coworker every time you try to hit “send.”
Even strictly virtual work requires more space than most people may realize. Some work requires a bubble of silence to concentrate on, and when employees can’t get that, they wind up sending out messages full of typos and incomplete thoughts. If everyone is too close together, it might be time to check out Gumtree for a larger office building. Growth tends to happen quicker than we may think, and you might have packed too many people into a small space.
Coming together is just as important as working separately. The whole group needs to be able to sit at the same table in order to discuss and plan an upcoming project. Some of that work is meant to be done within the group, but other small tasks may require privacy. If everyone else needs to be quiet so one person can make a phone call, this is a sign that you don’t have enough designated zones for specific kinds of work.
Make sure you have enough quiet places where your team members can make phone calls or sit down with clients to go over personal information. Attempting to do these things in a team setting is overwhelming, and not much will get done. Everyone needs a little corner to handle these quiet tasks before they can come back and share what they’ve learned with the group.
Recent research from Gallup revealed that employee engagement worldwide oscillates around 15%.
That’s 2% more than stated in the 2013 report from the same company called the State of the Global Workplace.
During the last four years, employers didn’t do much to boost the engagement of workers. The vast majority of professionals are emotionally disconnected from their workplaces and not very likely to be productive. Only a very small number of workers is committed to their jobs and making positive contributions to their organizations. You can only imagine the estimated economic impact of that situation.
Still, there is a reason to be hopeful. There many organizations that are now taking a closer look at employee productivity because of the sheer benefits that come with high engagement. It’s not only about productivity, but also customer ratings and profitability, reduced absenteeism and turnover, as well as fewer safety incidents, when compared to companies with low employee engagement.
So how do you boost employee engagement at your company? One good strategy relates to the use of video. Here are 4 ways to help you use videos to boost employee engagement and collaboration at your organization.
David Byrne is a musician and a writer and lives in New York City. An extract from one of his articles appeared on the MIT Technology Review. The article talks about the ubiquitous presence of Artificial Intelligence embedded in the social interaction software and networks that we meddle with, day in and day out relentlessly. We take it so granted, that I was compelled to write about his unique perspective on the effects of AI (Artificial intelligence) on our social life. You can find the article here.
Here, in the following paragraphs, you will find my perspectives (my 5 cents to it) on ‘Can AI really drive happy accidents leading to social interaction’ riding on David Byrne’s arguments.
We are swayed by the AI networks for social interaction
We as humans are so preset with the current way of life using all kinds’ of smart devices for communication and interaction that we have often forgotten to realize what it means to have a real human-to-human interaction. In fact, would like to appreciate MIT Technology Review for giving such a clever title as “Eliminating the Human” in the article.
David argues that we are swayed by the artificial cues and matches thrown by AI (Artificial intelligence) that we have failed to recognize our natural instincts as social animals to trust our own intuition for social interaction and collaboration that consumes us.
There is a generalization, and the pattern is obvious. We are entering into a world, which increasingly does not favor human interaction. For example, if we go to the ever popular Amazon.com, the site acts and behaves like a machine and gives us recommendations on what to buy based on our past interests and even the review conversations are machine like.
Social networks are engineered predominantly by male software engineers
So are the other modern outlets like music stores, driver-less cars, online ordering and home delivery, speech recognition and personal assistants, big data and even popular social networks. Though social networks have the social interaction part, they are less real. They are the simulated version of our interactions. The entire interaction happens from a software engineer’s point of view. Partly because, the software engineering crowd is predominantly male and they do seem to share the feeling that human interaction is all noise and has less simplicity and efficiency.
When things feel up in the air, it’s hard for employees to stay grounded. If your business is changing ownership, the staff might feel uncertain about their futures. Their concerns will change, and they’ll view their careers from a different perspective. Until the change has been completed, the days will need to go on the same way they always have. Keeping things flowing means changing the way collaboration works under these new circumstances.
Know What Needs to Be Done
When new owners come in, old long term goals or policies might change. Think about what needs to get done in the moment. No one can work together productively if they feel as though what they’re working towards is useless. What does your team definitely need to accomplish before the transfer? What long term projects can be scrapped to accommodate current priorities? Make sure everyone is on the same page as far as what is most important at this time.
Take it Out of the Office
Whether you’re selling a brick and mortar office business or selling a website, the people who aren’t sticking around for the new owners are going to be working in a new environment soon. Staying in the office might be a little uncomfortable or downright upsetting to the people who aren’t happy about what’s going on. Encourage your team to collaborate in new environments. Let them work at a coffee shop or in a public park. The change of scenery will take their minds off of a big change they may not be happy about. Allowing them to work remotely from home is also a valuable alterative.
Don’t Stop Team Building
People value the relationships they build at work. If you know your deal will be completed in 90 days, you shouldn’t stop team building activities for that time. They’re still going to be working together. You need your team to feel strong and focused. Transfer of business can be demoralizing if you let regular day to day activities fall apart. Ownership may change, but in-office relationships can remain the same throughout the process.
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.