Saturday, January 24, 2009

Cause And Effect ...

I have long believed, and continue to believe (unless someone can convince me otherwise) that innovation is best when it is broad-based. No, i am not saying this with the benefit of hindsight, but rather, from the many Rum and Water consumed with colleagues (primarily Old Monk, but then, i am no connoiseur ... did i get the spellings right there?), cribbing about the so many stupid things which the senior managers keep doing from time to time. No, i am not taking names ... i am still good friends with most of them, so dont even bother to ask, my dears! Fact of the matter is, if you ask the many people working on the field about the things which the organization is doing wrong, you will be sure to get answers ... plenty of them! Of course, you got to be careful how you ask, though. Ask it too stiff-collared, and you might not get any answers whatsoever.

So, whats the point, i hear you asking. Stifling a yawn, maybe? Well well ... the point is simply this ... that when it comes to innovation, the ideas are out there. Legend tells of legendary innovations the creation of which is the stuff of legends (my take on Kung Fu Panda, which, by the way, if you still havent seen, you probably must ...), so let me not interfere with the legend. But the point is, so many of the innovations we see around us, have come from, at times, stupid ideas. Which is something i believe in strongly. That at the "bottom of the pyramid" is where the brilliant ideas exist. For another similar idea, read my previous post. And i believe, that social computing is a fabulous tool to tap into this vast treasure of ideas which is readily available, only needing the possibility of a treasure hunter coming and discovering the treasure, and generating value from it. In other words, the one most important aspect is that people have the ideas, and these ideas are based on knowledge. Most of these ideas come from very intimate understanding of work, organization, market, customers ... only thing, the organization must be willing to invest the energy required to listen.

And probably the most fabulous tool till now to enable organizations to listen ... whether to customers, or partners, or employees, is social computing. True, you have had discussion forums and similar technologies around for some time now, but then, i dont think they have been maningfully deployed. This is not to say that social computing tools by themselves are a magic pill, which implies that they too have to be meaningfully deployed. In addition, they are, at best, the ears ... the organization also needs to be build up the entire apparatus, from the external auditory meatus, to the tympanic membrane, the cochlea, the cochlear nerve ... all the way to the brain (click here for the diagram). Without this, all the organization has is the proverbial "deaf ear".

Having said that, a question which i am asked quite a few times is whats the cause, and what effect. Can the success of social computing lead to greater participation, or could greater participation lead to the success of social computing. It is obvious that the latter it is, but what is not so obvious is that the former is equally valid. In fact, if we look at it as a circular phenomenon, we would be able to understand that social computing cannot succeed without enhanced participation, and enhanced participation wont come about till social computing is seen as a success (why would someone waste their time contributing to a platform which is not too widely accepted?). The answer is give is simple ... Value. Value creation, and the perception of this, is the way to break this circle. There are a number of organizations which have done it, and a lot of organizations which have struggled. But the fact is, the possibilities are enormous.

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