“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.