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.

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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.

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Social collaboration in workplaces – Time and creativity Best Practices Part 2

Social collaboration in workplaces

This post is the part 2 of the series, Social collaboration in workplaces. You can find the part 1 here.

Today, we will talk about how social collaboration in workplaces can help in areas where with time pressure to complete the work, there is no place for creative endeavors.

“Don’t be fooled into thinking that time pressure will, in itself, spur creativity. That’s a powerful illusion but an illusion nonetheless.” These words are taken from an article in Harvard Business Review titled “Creativity under the Gun”. You can find the article here.

As the authors say at the end, it is all about dodging the bullets and bullets are a metaphor for all kinds of distractions.

With that in mind, what I would like to say is…

Do not rush creativity

Creativity needs some time to unfold. The sparks of insight that we encounter, need some time to internalize and recombine within the mind to fructify.

Research says that time bound and high-pressure jobs do not give rise to creative thinking nor new ideas.

Typically, in an organization managers give a day or two off after a task and particularly for tasks with tight deadline schedules. The fact is creative juices will not flow even after a day or two of completion. Employees often have to deal with something called the “deadline hangover” which lasts for several days. It could be because of exhaustion or post productive paralysis say some psychologists.

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