6 best books on social collaboration – A recommended reading list

books on social collaboration

The moment we hear the term ‘social collaboration’ what comes to our mind is people interacting and sharing to achieve common goals. That is correct.  But little do we understand that this simple behavior has deep roots in the very survival and evolution of the human species.

Not withstanding, the Twitter wars of  our world leaders.

Social collaboration is multi disciplinary in nature and involves in good measure, disciplines as diverse as Sociology, Cognitive Psychology, Computers, Mathematics and Ethnography to name a few.

In most of the cases it is viewed from an enterprise perspective, but we should not forget that our immediate surroundings, the environment where we live and work and our upbringing have a huge impact in the way we interact and share with others. There is diversity.

Needless to say that it is the social behavior that we exhibit in our personal lives is what we bring it to our professional lives as well. How much of this diversity is respected and accepted as part of an inclusive development within an organization and the society at large remains to be seen.

I have always emphasized that social collaboration is art as well as science. The following books give us a good starting point to understand as well as a first hand account of the experiences of thought leaders and examples from industry practitioners.  Just like in other fields, to excel in it we need to practice it.

Please excuse me. I have not provided direct links to the book author’s site nor to any online store. Lets do our bit on the online search.

Book 1: Social collaboration for Dummies

This book cannot be understated. Dummies as a book brand with its various titles and subject topics provides for simple reading with friendly instructions. The book series serves as a great reference book for starters and learners. It has around 2500 titles under its kitty.

‘Social collaboration for dummies’ written by David Carr details how social collaboration and social networking can be applied and put in place within an organization context for achieving organizational goals. Specifically, it looks at

1. How to introduce social collaboration practices in workplaces.
2. How to transform an organization into a social business.
3. The book also presents case studies and best practice examples of adopting social collaboration and creating a learning environment.

This is a good book for anyone looking to understand how social collaboration can be used to enhance productivity, innovation and creativity within the workplace.

Book 2: The social life of information

The book is written by John Seely and Paul Duguid. John Seely was the former chief scientist at Xerox corporation and Paul Duguid is the professor at UC Berkerly school of information.

The book argues that increased digitization cannot necessarily give us a better future. Organizations need to rethink the how information is shared within organizations and not follow the tunnel vision methodologies of the technology enthusiasts.

This book gives us a solid grounding as to how information needs to be managed, shared and the business practices that need to be followed in a business context. Though it is written in the year 2000, the principles stand relevant even today.

Harvard University reprinted it in 2002. Undoubtedly one of the best books for social collaboration.

Continue reading

Here is why Retail chain stores and coffee bars are better than traditional R&D

coffee cup and collaboration skills

Cheers to  #National coffee day ; Drinking coffee is good for your heart and lowers the risk of cognitive decline.

This is the third part in the series on the Best practices for social collaboration.  You can find part 1 and Part 2 here.

Please find few more

Create a system, which is not too loose or not too rigid

One of the best ways for improvisation is to create a system, which is not too loose nor too rigid.  Something, which is at the edge of chaos.  To know more, please read our blog post on ‘Social collaboration’ at the edge of chaos here.  The essence is in the usage of ‘semi structures’ as Brown and Eisenhardt point out.  You can request for a research report at Research gate.  A structure, which is not too rigid and yet flexible enough to create a change even at the last moment.

There are very few such global organizations, which can boast of such intelligent semi-structures.  Titan is one among them.

There is a need for critical balance for problem solving at the edge of chaos.  For example, the design process at Titan is not structured and the designers had the freedom to improvise and change plans even at the very last moment.

Processes need to be flexible to change in response to an unforeseen development should it happen. Something called ‘opportunistic planning’ as cognitive scientist Barbara Hayes Roth calls it. We will discuss more on ‘Opportunistic planning’ in our upcoming posts.

The company has built coffee shops everywhere, an increasing trend we have been seeing lately where people communicate and interact with each other.

Another company called cruising has successfully developed cross-pollination of projects – where everybody borrows ideas from everybody.

Continue reading

Benefits of Social collaboration in workplaces

benefits of social collaboration

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’.

Continue reading

Understanding viral information flow and rumors in a corporate social network

viral information flow

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.

Continue reading

Adopting social media for social collaboration in workplaces-Best practices

adopting social media

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.

Continue reading

How Bots Are Changing Workplace Productivity and Collaboration

How bots are changing workplace producitvity

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.

Continue reading

Swarm theory practicality for social collaboration- Part 1

Swarm theory

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.

Continue reading

30% of employees did not spend enough time to learn from external social collaboration – HBR Research

external social collaboration

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.

Continue reading

Infographic – Social collaboration tips for Brainstorming

Social collaboration tips

We have compiled a list of Social collaboration tips as an Infographic. The transcript for the Infographic is below. Hope you find it useful.

(You can freely embed this URL, the way you like it)

Embed URL:  Brain Storming tips

 

Social collaboration tips

 

Transcript

1.Keep the group size to a minimum

Keeping the group size to a minimum number of members required will reduce topic digression and unproductive loafing.

2.Use a facilitator

Good Facilitators know how to keep the audience interested and generally conduct ice-breaking sessions to avoid social inhibition.

3. Encourage Diversity

Having diverse group members from different fields with complementary skills generates newer ideas and increases innovation.

4. Have a culture of innovation

Fostering an environment which nurtures collaboration and innovation are important. Brainstorming should be innate and a way of life.

5. Alternate with frequent breaks

Keep a balance by allowing the group to alternate from productive group work to individual activity including taking breaks.

Some useful tips on the history of Brainstorming

The Wikipedia describes the ‘Brainstorming’ process as a group creativity technique where the group arrives at a list of ideas spontaneously for an impending problem.

The word was first coined by one Advertising executive Alex F Osborn. Alex worked on creative problem-solving way back in 1939 and hosted several group thinking sessions. During these group thinking sessions, he observed several of his employees were able to solve problems creatively and they came up with new ideas. He, later on, wrote a book called the “The creative power” where he outlined all his methods.

Please read our blog post article on Brainstorming, Brainstorming spontaneously

Alex Osborn’s methods are outlined on the following two principles. They are

1. Deferring judgement
2. Going for quantity

By following these two principles he was successfully able to host group thinking session among his employees and which later on spread to the rest of the world. His principles of Brainstorming brought a positive change in removing inhibitions of the participating members, increase creativity within the group and excite idea generation as a habit among the group members.

Cheers.