May 2, 2012

Machiavelli’s Inbox

(or why social platforms invert old power structures)

We often get asked how a social platform like Convo will improve communications within an organization. This is similar to questions about measuring the ROI of a new platform. The queries are completely understandable: why undertake a significant change without a clear sense of the value you can expect in return?

Reports are now emerging on the value of social platforms. The report referenced in the previous blog post, Social Intranets on the Rise, cite some compelling evidence that organizations that adopt social platforms are those with more engaged employees. For example, employee retention appears to be 23 percentage points higher in social organizations.

Some other stats include the following:

  • Web 2.0 use increased productivity by 21%, acquisition of new customers by 19%, and increased revenue by 17%. (Source: KPMG)
  • Web 2.0 implementation helped Cisco reduce costs by $251M a year, increase margins by $142 M and generate employee time savings of $380 M a year.
  • Composite organization three-year risk-adjusted ROI when implementing social network platform: 365% (Source: Forrester)
  • 77% of organizations adopting social media reported increased speed of access to knowledge, and 60% reported a reduction in communication costs. (Source: McKinsey)

From a qualitative perspective, those of us who have fully adopted social communication platform can attest to a fundamental shift in how we envision our role in the organization and how we engage our colleagues.

Email: a Squirrel’s Feast
In an email-centered communication environment, participants are often scheming individualists, each with his or her own trove of knowledge nuggets, stored in respective Inboxes. Every message involves a decision about which recipients should be conferred with the contained information.

The result is, following practices that are practically tribal, that information is hoarded within Inboxes, like nuts stashed away by a jealous squirrel, where only the owner, often with Machiavellian intent, can make miserly use of it. Because the information is not accessible by others in the organization, it becomes obscured from view, and often used as a chip in an atavistic game that treats scarce information as a source of power.

The Social Attitude Shift
In a social collaboration environment, the information scarcity mindset is completely inverted. Sharing information is the default stance, and naturally enabled by a publish-and-subscribe model, rather than a push-and-hoard model.

The medium not only enables sharing, it encourages posting content for followers and groups. In a social collaboration platform, information is treated more like an organizational asset – not something owned and stashed by individuals, but more openly shared for others to discover and leverage.

One reason ROI is hard to calculate in social platforms is that an important part of the shift is in attitude, which certainly impacts everything in an organization, from productivity to responsiveness to innovation.

After a short time working in a social collaboration platform, it becomes increasingly second nature to share useful information. The act itself improves one’s reputation, and engages the worker more directly in the life and information commerce of the organization.

Shared Knowledge is Collective Power
Social environments improve communication because of the publish-and-subscribe model, and that alone is vast improvement over email. Organizations that invest in social communications feel better connected, more informed about and engaged with their colleagues and work activities.

But the bigger payoff is in the enhanced accessibility of knowledge. Organizational IP is more easily captured and shared in social environments, where it becomes more discoverable and accessible.

So if knowledge is the currency of productivity, responsiveness and innovation, adopting a social platform is like tapping into a virtually boundless font of value.

Why Convo?
Now that we’ve shined a brief light on those dark places of information hoarding, you might ask why we think Convo is worthy of your consideration as the social platform antidote to those shady practices.

Ever since the advent of the search engine, discovering shared knowledge hasn’t been particularly difficult. The bigger challenge has always been getting knowledge workers to share the information in the first place. Clearly, social platforms provide an enormous boost to sharing knowledge.

But (and this is a big “but”) the social platform needs to be useful and engaging enough to ensure that knowledge workers invest time and energy there. If workers don’t use the environment, it can’t deliver the promised value. This is where Convo has a huge advantage over other social platforms.

Social can be a shallow stream
Most social platforms focus only on social communications – that is, the notifications and quick status updates that simply become the communal log of organizational activity. Within that stream, most platforms enable links and uploaded files, which adds substance to the stream.

But ultimately, the stream is simply about notifications. When it comes to the files, web pages or web apps shared in the stream, the real collaborative work you want to do happens somewhere else – either via email, or in an authoring tool, or in another document.

Convo runs deep
Convo not only supports the actual collaborative work – you markup, annotate and discuss content directly in the app – but it integrates all that collaboration directly into the activity stream. In other words, Convo is more than just social collaboration; it’s an actual work environment.

Organizations that embrace Convo see deeper engagement and broader adoption because it delivers more value. Convo goes beyond notifications and file sharing to real work, and that makes a huge difference in the investment knowledge workers are willing to make in the environment.

Overthrow the Status Quo!
“I’m not interested in preserving the status quo; I want to overthrow it.”
– Niccolo Machiavelli

Social platforms are the obvious remedy to undervalued communication channels and knowledge sharing practices. By adopting a substantive social platform, you will expose your Machiavellian information hoarders, shine a light on the under-leveraged knowledge assets jealously stuffed away in isolated Inboxes, and enable your knowledge workers to generate and share the very stuff of innovation, directly within their communication and collaboration environment.

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