In a recent contribution to the Ideas Project, Ross Mayfield (founder of Socialtext) notes:
The big shift that we're seeing in organizations that are leveraging social software thoroughly is this shift from a need-to-know to a need-to-share culture; the ability to increase productivity by the way that you're coordinating your organization, in not just ways that are pre-subscribed, that are intelligently designed, but enabling them to emerge.
In the video, many of his examples focus on the signaling capability of micro-blogging tools like Twitter (or Socialtext Signals - an enterprise tool with security built in) -- both for how such tools can support the fast pace of internal activities, and for keeping track of your brand and customers' needs. The organizations making this shift are more agile and can gain an augmentation to the hierarchy as knowledge flows more directly to where it is needed, at less cost to those with the answers. Ross also acknowledges the power of learning from Gen Y (see my thoughts here), "There are also generational shifts that most people are aware of, not just the kids who grew up doing their homework on Facebook; we called that cheating when they were in school. They come to the work force, demand similar tools, and we call it collaboration." Gen Y, and even some of of the rest of us, understand that knowledge can be easily shared given modern tools and actively seeks effective strategies. Case in point: A current MBA-student of the Stanford Graduate School of Business demo'd a tool she's building based on the needs of students studying together -- apart. She noted that current distributed forms of work make it harder to just ask a friend for homework help, yet intelligent tools could provide support -- without becoming too intrusive. This is exactly the balancing act we need in organizations. We need seamless response to our information needs, without breaking into the immersive performance of our colleagues. While I can't point to any perfect solutions yet (examples appreciated if you know of some, or even some with just slight imperfections), both Ross and the Stanford entrepreneur are illustrating clear options. --- Yes, I'm a fan of Socialtext. Scott Schnaars (Senior Sales Exec at Socialtext) and I are doing a workshop on August 25 inspired by my Kill Email post. More formally titled, Value From Communication & Collaboration Tools: Put Email in its Place!, we provide frameworks and case examples of how to engage the power of collaboration and social networking in real-world situations. This isn't about the one particular tool, but rather an approach to managing collaboration in your firm. Join us!