What's at the edges? More than you bargained for

(cross-posted to the FASTForward Blog)

A lot of organizations get caught up on all of the bad stuff they think they will encounter when adopting social platforms within their organization.

“What about the white spam” I am asked, I am informed that white-spam is the stuff people send around the office such as “I am having a baby” or “Company picnic this Saturday”.“Do you even like the people you work with?” I ask him, in my head.

You see, there really are two types of people in the enterprise world. Those who feel like they have to maximize the current systems and processes, and there are those who believe that you must surpass existing systems to create new value.

Alexander Manu calls this The Imagination Challenge, the idea that creativity and innovation do not drive new value, they simply recreate most value. Imagination lets us make that creative leap to see new futures that can be wildly more lucrative than simply maximizing current assets.

So what if you are like my friend, who is stuck in a thought pattern that tells him that email will be the only form of communication inside corporations for the next 200 years? What if, in spite of what you think, you are not an imaginative thinker, in fact, you aren’t even an innovative or creative thinker.

The best thing I can do is to tell you about how social media tools CAN maximize current assets within an organization. The only leap is that the asset we are talking about isn’t software, but people.

What is out there at the edges?

Efficiencies

Wild and crazy efficiencies beyond your most daring dreams. People at the edges of your organization make far more efficient use of resources than people at the center of your organization.

Social tools in the enterprise let those people at the edges push those efficiencies back into the network. One Firestoker client was able to discover and distribute ~130 new efficiencies in the span of a year.

Innovation

The act of introducing something new” — Within your current enterprise environment you probably think you have some sort of Innovation Process, or even just a pattern of how new ideas are assimilated, but the truth is that much of what you create at the center of your organization is not something new, but simple the maximization, (or at worse: retooling) of something that already exists.

People at the edges of your organization do not have access to the same massive existing resources that those at the center do, they have to take in new, previously unknown, inputs in order to create new value.

Values

The wonderful thing about the edges of your organization is that the people are real. Real people doing hard work and doing the best they can. With that comes a certain understanding of their own core values. In my work in 2006 with public radio in the US, we noticed that while the large corporate entities talked about “core values” a lot, they were the most granular and definable at the station level.

Disruption

Strong and healthy systems are not afraid of disruption, they typically welcome it. Much like the human body which, if it is exposed to enough germs and viruses in it’s lifetime, it will be a much stronger organism as it ages.

Many of the structures and processes we have in place in modern organizations are reporting mechanisms built to filter unnecessary information and to wash undesirable information from reaching unprepared ears, but modern social software tools give us far more bandwidth that allows us to both hear more disruptive thinking and information, and also deal with that information in a way that was not previously possible.

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