Friday, December 12, 2008

Social Computing In Organizations ... Interesting Study

There is an interesting paper by HP's Social Computing Lab about ... Long Tail in Office Conversations. This paper actually validates a lot of the thoughts that have been emerging from a number of thinkers in the social computing space, but even so, i would think this is a must-read for anyone interested in the subject.

Having said this, let me first tell the route by which i reached this paper, and this will be an indicator of the role serendipity plays in knowledge discovery ... I have set a google alert for social computing. This gives me a daily mail about some of the things happening around social computing. Today, one of the entries in this alert was this blog by Puneet Gupta (which i had some difficulty understanding, and probably more so agreeing with) and here, Puneet has written about this paper.

Coming now to the paper itself ... there are a few points which stand out here. Though, what this research does also is to validate some of the thinking which quite a few of us have been writing about. Some of the things which i wanted to write about ...

While these tools significantly lower the barriers to producing content, employees may perceive there to be little incentive to invest their own time in providing this content for public consumption.

As i have written before, what people are looking for is value from their interactions. The question is, how this value is derived by participants in this space. One of the means, of course, is recognition. As a number of folks have written, recognition is the equity of those who are contributing their thoughts and expertise to a knowledge platform.

The “long tail” of expertise and interests in large, distributed organizations offers potential opportunities for broad and diversified access to knowledge.

This is an interesting point ... that, as organizations are trying to deliver more value to customers, they necessarily need to enter domains which are niches of sorts, and as such, organizations find that the requirement for knowledge on highly diverse topics grows as this happens. As i have written before, this is one of the challenges which faces KM. If the topic is a niche, where are the people who can contribute, and impart knowledge on these niches (and the ones who are there, are too overloaded with work, to really bother about doing this). This then means that the organization must invest to some extent to create knowledge, maybe even from external sources, in these niches.

Encouraging adoption of social media within organizations requires overcoming these two challenges: motivating people to contribute information, and helping people to locate relevant information.

This is the key ... adoption. Adoption, as i keep telling anyone i talk to, is the key to the success of any KM initiative. And the issue that the paper is talking about is simply a demand and supply issue. First, how do we get people in the knowledge marketplace to "supply" knowledge, and even if are able to do this, how do we convince people to come this marketplace to "consume" knowledge ... in other words ... generate "demand". Which is why, i like to look at the KM role as a sales role ... selling the idea of "selling" to people who have knowledge, and selling the idea of "buying" to people who need it. Although, more and more, i find, the issue is to get people to contribute, rather than to locate ... with search, and (as i have written before, and so has Nirmala) communities.

What i found particularly important about this paper is the way it summarizes the strategies people use when they are looking for knowledge:

  • Novelty
  • Popularity
  • People
  • Topic
This is sort of the thing i was debating with Nirmala and Anjali.

Though what i found most interesting in the paper was the observation that ...

commenting patterns tend more to intra-group discussion.

What this implies is that more and more, people are using these platforms for more effective interactions within a particular group or team (not necessarily organizational, but could be based on any parameter, i guess ... maybe function, department, or even technology?). This also implies that more often than not, the usage of tools like blogs tend to revolve more and more around a community rather than a general read it all kind of scenario (one wouldnt expect it to be the latter, anyway, but this just validates that). The question this brings up ... what implications does this have for the organization? The way i see it, one important thing this brings up is that the key to generating adoption of these tools, and enhancing the level of collaboration groups or communities, which share a common parameter, either in terms of their objective, or interest. This could generate far more adoption than doing a be all things to all people approach. Any thoughts about this? All thoughts welcome ...


Hutch Carpenter said...

Hi Atul - glad you found the HP study via the Connectbeam blog post (Puneet is the CEO, I work there and actually this particular post). I'll admit the post is a bit wonkish.

The point of the Connectbeam post is to think about a scarce resource, attention, and examine situations where people are willing to give more of their attention. The use of supply-demand curves was a way to do that.

As you write here, the key to social computing inside companies is generating adoption. And as HP notes, adoption is fostered by attention to individuals' contributions.

If you have a moment, I invite you to ask questions or critique the post over on the Connectbeam blog.


Jolly said...
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