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Enterprise social networking tutorial: Building success through innovation and socialization

Enterprise social networking tools solve real business problems and provide measurable value by identifying and exploiting patterns in socialization and innovation -- creating an open, dynamic, and surfacable collective intelligence pool.

Leigha Cardwell
Enterprise social networking tools solve real business problems and provide measurable value by identifying and exploiting patterns in socialization and innovation. The equation for success is simple: Socialization (or person-to-person interaction) and innovation equals success. Visionary companies like 3M, Google and Amazon understand the intrinsic, biological social drivers of human nature and how to create a corporate culture that encourages initiative and innovation.

Social networking leverages the new business intelligence, or the science of how people interact with one another. In this tutorial, you'll learn about the importance of institutionalizing innovation; why encouraging open, transparent social interaction can bolster your business's long-term viability; and how enterprise social networking tools create a dynamic, collective knowledge base – offering unprecedented benefits to everyone within your organization, including partners and customers -- and could help your company sustain a competitive lead for generations.

   Socialization plus innovation equals success
   Social networking tools: Unleashing the power of socialization and innovation
   Leveraging a pattern-based strategy with social networking
   Enterprise social networking key to sustainable success

  Socialization plus innovation equals success  Return to Table of Contents

Companies that align the constructs of human behavior with enterprise social networking tools will galvanize lasting success. By cultivating creativity and identifying patterns in both unstructured and formal social interactions, enterprise social networking tools engage employees in unprecedented ways -- pumping vitality into traditional, staid business models and tailoring a new corporate culture that fits our intrinsic social nature like a warm glove.

Innovation is the keystone of a successful business model. Creativity and innovation are propelled by social interaction. "Innovation is always a social function," said Scott Berkun with conviction.

Berkun -- who left his post at Microsoft in 2003 to write -- has made an impressive career of winnowing fact from hype and teaching others how to do the same. He has authored three best-selling books, including Making things happen and The myths of innovation. Though Berkun is, at best, dubious of social media, he does concede that "successful companies are often started by a group of people, not the obligatory lone inventor."

Berkun, a self-described creative lone wolf, blogged about his biggest [professional] mistakes, one of which is failing to find and engage with like-minded people. "I've rarely had mentors in my life, although I do see the value and wish I knew someone I respected who was interested in playing that role -- or had a group of talented folks with mutual respect who help each other produce more and better work."

The equation for success is simple: Socialization plus innovation equals success.
Berkun describes innovation as a "charge into the unknown."So defining a set method or algorithm for innovation, or the limitless variations of the unknown, is impossible. I agree, but, in my opinion, progress or success rarely exist in the absence of socialization (person-to-person interaction) and innovation.

Though there is no algorithm for innovation, the equation for success is simple: Socialization plus innovation equals success. This is not a new idea, yet few corporations foster ongoing innovation or encourage self-governing socialization. Many businesses operate under the misguided notion that socialization equates to wasted time and thus are reticent to encourage ad-hoc socialization – and reasonably so.

Until the advent of social networking tools, identifying patterns and correlating the infinite variables of socialization and innovation required a tedious iterative approach – repeatedly rearranging the equation through trial and error to get closer to the answer.

  Social networking tools: Unleashing the power of socialization and innovation  Return to Table of Contents

For businesses seeking sustainable success, hear this: Humans -- a.k.a. an enterprise's most valuable resource – are biologically driven by social interaction.

In the field of neuroscience, the consensus is that the human brain is a social organ and thus the brain experiences the workplace first and foremost as a social system. The need to interact and be acknowledged and respected by others is hardwired into our neurological framework.

As I describe in this associated article, The social mind: Understanding five basic human needs boosts business success, companies that incorporate our biological drive for status, certainty, autonomy, relatedness and fairness (SCARF) with social networking tools will continuously propel their business with the regenerative strength of a dedicated, motivated and highly productive workforce.

Quantifying the business value of social interaction and social networking
How social networks work best, published in the Harvard Business Review, sums a series of studies conducted by MIT that correlate social interaction and collaboration to improved productivity. According to MIT research findings, 40% of the productivity of creative teams is attributed to high levels of collaboration – discovering, exchanging and integrating information and ideas with one another. Employees with the most extensive digital networks were 7% more productive than other employees. Research results also linked productivity levels to how an individual's (or team's) performance is perceived and ranked by others.

Saba, a leading people management software and services provider, has built a diverse, global customer base -- serving more than 17 million users and 51% Fortune 100 companies – by engineering social networking tools and components that complement these fundamental social drivers (SCARF) to solve real business problems.

Ben Willis, Saba's senior director of product management and collaboration, says that too often businesses see innovation as an event, not a process.

By institutionalizing innovation [companies] perpetuate economic viability by renewing and improving existing products and diversifying their portfolios.
Institutionalizing innovation
For outrageously successful companies like 3M, Amazon and Google, carving out time and resources within the day-to-day workflow for innovative processes is a sovereign tenet.

Willis refers to this principle as institutionalizing innovation. By institutionalizing innovation, these companies perpetuate economic viability by renewing and improving existing products and diversifying their portfolios.

Google's 20% time is a good example of institutionalizing innovation. Google's 20% time is a policy that encourages Google engineers to spend 20% of their work time pursuing their own interests and hashing out ideas.

3M embarked on a similar policy back in the 1950s: 15% time. Among my favorite business philosophies is that of William McKnight, 3M's chairman of the board from 1949 to 1966. McKnight's philosophy took root after he nearly dismissed a landmark innovation that catapulted 3M's then lucrative, albeit limited, mining and sandpaper business into a synergistic, global corporation.

As a result of this near miss, McKnight passionately committed himself to identifying patterns of innovation and cultivating the creative process within his workforce. McKnight saturated his company's employees with the fuel of creative autonomy, and ignited the power of human innovation and initiative.

As our business grows, it becomes increasingly necessary to delegate responsibility and to encourage men and women to exercise their initiative. This requires considerable tolerance. Those men and women to whom we delegate authority and responsibility, if they are good people, are going to want to do their jobs in their own way.

Mistakes will be made. But if a person is essentially right, the mistakes he or she makes are not as serious in the long run as the mistakes management will make if it undertakes to tell those in authority exactly how they must do their jobs.

Management that is destructively critical when mistakes are made kills initiative. And it's essential that we have many people with initiative if we are to continue to grow.
From William McKnight's principals (1948)

In their ongoing commitment to innovation, 3M is using enterprise social networking tools.

  Leveraging a pattern-based strategy with social networking  Return to Table of Contents

McKnight certainly wasn't the first to capitalize on the patterns of collaboration and innovation, and he's not the last. In December 2009, Gartner published Using social network analysis to inform a Pattern-Based Strategy. According to Gartner, enterprise social networks are a largely untapped repository -- rich with collective patterns of collaboration and innovation.

To help businesses capture the value of social networks, Gartner constructed a Pattern-Based Strategy™. Gartner defines a Pattern-Based Strategy as a "discipline that enables business leaders to actively seek, amplify, examine and exploit new business patterns to capitalize on opportunities or avoid disruptions."

To actualize the business value of a Pattern-Based Strategy, Gartner recommends businesses administer three variations of social network analysis:

  • Organizational network analysis interprets how information is shared and exchanged among individuals. This information helps organizations identify new thought leaders and key players, as well as those who aren't performing at expected levels.

  • Value network analysis correlates an individual's economic value-add based on tangible and intangible deliverables. By analyzing the transactions and relationships among business partners, this variation equips the enterprise with a comprehensive metric to more accurately assess partner performance reviews and also helps identify sources of intangible value.

  • Influence analysis calculates the sum of the collective input. From this collective perspective, enterprises can better distill who has the most influence on existing and potential customers, uncover new product innovations and pinpoint potential problem areas.

  Enterprise social networking key to sustainable success  Return to Table of Contents

Enterprise social networking epitomizes Gestalt's theory: Patterns take precedence over elements and have properties that are not inherent in the elements themselves. The whole is more than the sum of its parts.

The business value of enterprise social networking
The power of enterprise social networking

A risk-based approach to social networking

Social media challenges reside with users, not technology
Social networking tools provide metrics to identify exploitable patterns of collaboration and innovation. Bypassing traditional hierarchical management models, social networking tools provide a destination to build online communities where ideas and information trump organizational positioning. This collective intelligence is a dynamic resource – an open, transparent venue for people to brainstorm and collaborate.

Indexed, ranked and surfacable, these online communities aggregate the information exchanged in emails, conference calls, presentations, wikis, and water-cooler talk into shared spaces where leadership is broadly distributed — augmenting person-to-person interaction, engagement and innovation.

Social networking leverages the new business intelligence, or the science of how people interact with one another. In his book Diffusion of Innovations,Everett Rogers wrote, "The diffusion of innovation is a social process,based more on psychology and sociology than technology."

By combining the dynamic symmetry of human behavior and collaborative social networking software, enterprise social networking tools will help ensure long-term business viability.

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