Work Monkey Labs Blog

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

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.

The components of a social 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.

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

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.

What collaboration is and is not – it is a habit and not a rare species

Collaboration is way of working with others with shared understanding to achieve mutual goals. Sometimes collaboration goes outside of our comfort zone to accomplish goals. It is critical to understand it to be more effective at it.

Collaboration helps us solve big problems this is a known fact but unfortunately we get confused sometimes and we get lost in a rigmarole of ‘thinking about its inefficiency’, we feel to it is ‘too risky’ to get out of comfort zone.

We might also have our concerns on the ‘unconscious’ signals we are sending to others on our over zealousness and sometimes we are afraid that our image and our relevance might take a beating.

Under such circumstances, it is essential that we clarify ourselves what collaboration is and is not.

It seeks to lay rest to our concerns and when the value of collaboration is clear, we will willingly seek out value added cross- functional projects to contribute and develop the necessary skills to effectively collaborate.

Here are some pointers to help us navigate the difficult waters.

What it is not

Knowing ‘what it is not’ helps us to come out our comfort zone fast. Knowing that we are not alone and there are others in the same boat as ourselves, helps us psychologically.

How Becoming a Business Tutor Helped Me Collaborate with Some of the Top Business Talents in My Area

When I first heard about business tutoring – I wasn’t fully aware of how beneficial it could be for my business.

I’d been quite successful in my area, and I wanted to give something back to those just starting out in the industry – so I was willing to volunteer some of my time to a few local business learning hubs and enterprise networks But I thought it was just going to be a one-way street. I was wrong.

My initial idea was that I was going to help out with a few up-and-coming entrepreneurs and that would be that. I didn’t realize becoming a business tutor could actually help my business. In reality, the process wasn’t just about sharing my knowledge with others – it actually helped me learn, and gave me a number of unique ways to collaborate and draw on a range of different skill sets.

How my collaborative efforts improved with the new network of talent I had access to

Because I was now working with a lot of motivated, inspired young-business people – the opportunities I had to collaborate on different projects skyrocketed. I was now drawing on a wide-range of talents and ideas – some of which I could use in my own business.

I was tutoring different people with different skills – and more than just sharing my knowledge with them, they were sharing theirs with mine. Not only did I collaborate with them to help on a few of their ideas and projects – but they actually helped me with mine. It was now a two-way learning street.

Local private tuition companies like Smile Tutor offer these collaborative opportunities in the Singapore area.

How becoming a tutor helped me learn new ways of doing business

I might have been the senior businessperson – but that doesn’t mean I didn’t have things I could learn. Through our collaboration, I knew that some of my ideas were stuck in the past. I got some great new ideas that I could implement in my business.

I was actually tutoring someone who ran an online business and was very interested in social media. It was at a time when social media was just taking off, but I’d been so busy I’d sort of neglected getting involved.

He needed some help with more traditional aspects of his business, so we worked together so I could set him straight. While collaborating helped him immensely – it also helped me. I saw how powerful social media could be in promoting a new business (especially on a budget). It was so effective, I implemented it in my business and started seeing positive results. Through our collaboration – we both learned something to improve our skill set.

How to protect teenagers from the dark side of social media

Everyone knows the brighter side of social media platforms, where users can interact with the people of different cultures and ethnicities. Long distance relationships are enabled to communicate with each other with the help of text messages, audio, and video calling by using different instant messengers such as Facebook, Tinder, Line, Vine, Yahoo, Snapchat, WhatsApp and plenty of others alike.

These social media tools are the best for online communication. People make friends online even whom they don’t know in real life. People use these platforms free of cost, without paying a single penny to these digital media services.

People have cell phone devices in their hands and they can get access to instant messaging apps. Having the brighter side of the online media, there is also having the darker side which is continuously influencing on the positive side.

The negative side of the digital media is progressing no time ever before and young kids and teens that are very fond of social apps are facing nightmares. Let’s take a look on the darker side of the social messaging apps.

The Dark Side of Social Media

Everything has its dark side, so the technological creatures are not pretty different. Young kids and teens use the social media apps without the consent of their parents. On the other hand, if parents are totally non-tech savvy, then there huge chances that young kids and teens get harm online by using the social media apps.  All the social media mighty messengers have become the safe havens for evils. Young kids and teens sometimes adopt these evils and most of the time becomes the victim of these evils.

Cyber Bullying

We all know about bullies and bullying, cyberbullying means bullies present in the digital world and bullied online to others by using technology. The technology can be used devices such as laptops, computers, and gadgets such as cell phones, tabs, and pads. It further added communication tools such as social messaging apps and websites, chats and text messages. Cyberbullies chase young teens online on different social media platforms and bullied them by using sexual language and by using sexual explicit photos and videos, with racist sentences and with many others. Once teens got bullied online, the results could be long lasted and swear such as depression, anxiety, and stress.

On creative project ideas and bedtime stories – Nurturing creativity and cultivating it

It was a busy day. As I drove down the road during one of those errand trips, I heard the local radio channel go boom with this question, ‘Did Stephen King narrate bedtime horror stories to his children?’ The radio jockey further asks the reasons for our ‘yes’ or ‘no’. I sat bewildered. Stephen King is a very popular and celebrated author who is known for his work on horror stories, fantasy, and science fiction. I did not know the answer nor  I could  say ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to the question.

I thought about it the next day. It hit me as a father. I had narrated hundreds and hundreds of bedtime stories to my kid daughter. My daughter is quite demanding at that.

Many times, I had run out of stories. Sometimes I concoct and make it up and sometimes my kid daughter insists that I retell the stories. I later found out that each time you repeat the story, kids start seeing it in a new angle. They reinterpret the stories and the characters.

Each time they hear, they see a new meaning in it and their imagination has no bounds. It lays the seed of creativity in them. What happens without saying is that you are effectively collaborating with your kids for their development and it is fulfilling for you as well.

I later researched and found out that, two of Stephen King’s children have become authors.

Creativity is something that we need to nourish it from a very young age.

You can read more on generating creative project ideas from out blog post, 24 simple approaches for generating new ideas in the workplace

The below presentation slides summarize it.

Even within an organization, nourishing creativity and cultivating it is a skill. We are all waiting for the next big idea and a potential break through. We cannot afford to look at it as counterproductive to productivity and control.

Smart But Reluctant: How To Encourage Your Employees To Share Their Knowledge

It’s not easy to create an office environment where knowledge sharing is a common practice.

One of the most common barriers to sharing knowledge is fear of rejection. If employees think that their ideas will be rejected, they are far less likely to share them. Another problem that inhibits knowledge sharing at the workplace is the hierarchical structure prevalent in many office environments.

Now that you know what the two biggest obstacles to knowledge sharing are, here are 7 tips to help you encourage employees to share their knowledge with others and build an open environment for knowledge exchange that will drive innovation.

1. Learn what’s their passion

It is common for employees to have their most and least favorite parts of a job. There may be areas about which they feel especially passionate and excited. Identify these areas and find a way for employees to spend more of their energy there. You will be rewarded with a higher quality of work and potential pathways for knowledge sharing. For example, a successful social media manager may be able to share their methodology that will benefit other areas of your marketing department.

1 2 8