Friday thought about social media, the workplace and generating ideas.
The following appeared in the comments thread on a lighthearted post about things not to say if you are trying to get your org to go social. I’ve added highlights:
I used to have relatively strong disagreements at the foundation I worked at years ago when they were pushing video-conferencing to replace face-to-face meetings. I kept thinking that the most profound insights and creativity always happened “in between” the formal sessions–during coffee breaks, over lunch, casual encounters when moving between sessions, and particularly when the formal sessions completely broke down. I’ve got a colleague in international development that spends all his time at conferences in the hallways to converse with other folks “escaping” the formal structure.
For me, Enterprise 2.0. Gov 2.0–virtually any social media channel–recreates that “in-between” space, where interactions can spontaneously occur, where the pressures of “productivity” and deadlines are released enough to see and experience things in radically different light, and therefore always fresh opportunity. Can it be measured against a cost-benefit analysis? Probably not, but for the sake of argument, what if it were possible to measure ALL the communications that took place around a given community/organization/enterprise–formal and informal–and flag the points where the greatest creativity broke through? I think it almost invariably happens first “in-between” and then enters the “formal” discussion.
And that’s what social media opens up–a rebalancing of the “in-between” spaces with the formal structures.
Props to the author. This crystallizes the feeling that I have about the value of social media at work. The importance of social media in the workplace is that in enhances that informal, in-between space for idea generation.
It goes further than merely recreating the water-cooler experience. Social media allows ideas generated informally to be efficiently captured for future use. Too often, those water-cooler chats vanish into thin air, and the spark of an idea that might have had legs dies out invisibly. By transferring those conversations online, they get preserved for others to build on.
And it gets better — Only a few folks can gather around a water cooler, but given the endlessly linked and continuously interconnecting nature of the web, you’re no longer restricted to a small circle of face-to-face connections for sending and receiving flashes of insight. You can take it much farther afield now, over a longer period of time also.
The always-on, instantly shareable nature of social media lets people capture those flashes of insight for immediate testing and validation or correction. At a scale that was previously unavailable.