Enterprise social platforms - giving serendipity a chance in a corporate world

August 11, 2013

Enterprise social platforms – giving serendipity a chance in a corporate world

Are the big corporations loosing the race for attracting and motivating talent? Is Michel Serres right by stating that: ”I see our institutions shining with a brilliance similar to constellations which astronomers tell us they are dead since a long time”?  Do our established institutions have means to win the race?

The increased power of social media, the introduction of open innovation principles and the concept of extended entreprise have changed the innovation landscape.  Still in many cases the practices and even the tools used in corporate world are from the industrial era. They are not flexible and agile enough to support companies gaining from the ambivalence, discontinuity and unpredictability of our postnormal era. But there is hope.

For completely understandable reasons, enterprise social media tools and platforms like Yammer, Chatter, Jive and Sharepoint have been branded as great ways to communicate, engage, collaborate, coordinate, update and share information. That’s largely accurate. But those pretty verbs obscure where the real action is taking place.”

If properly used these platforms may help to find the initiators and intrapreneurs inside the company.

This statement is from HBR blog, which suggests that enterprise social media platforms – like Yammer – might help to support communication and collaboration, but the main point of the writer, Michael Schrage, is interesting. He claims that these tools can really support also the engagement and empowerment of the employees. And that is good news. If properly used these platforms may help to first find the initiators and intrapreneurs inside the company and then even support them in their actions. This is how Schrage describes the increased power of individuals even in the corporate world:

Initiators and intrapreneurs aren’t just using social media to make their efforts more transparent and accessible, they’re using these platforms to improvise and organize new ways to get the job done. They’re using these tool and technologies to add value to existing processes or, indeed, to create new “just-in-time” processes (and programs) that the C-suite and other senior managers had never envisioned. Social media inside the enterprise and out lower the costs and increase the power of individuals to productively coalesce and coordinate on their own initiative.

This also opens up the huge potential of serendipitous findings also outside the firewalls of the corporation.

This also opens up the huge potential of serendipitous findings when social media platforms are actively and widely used inside and, if possible, also outside the firewalls of the corporation. The proper usage of these platforms might be the key to improve the innovation practices and to build the desired competitive edge. Schrage continues to explain the benefits of the platforms and he mentions undesigned and unplanned processes as part of the outcome:

The rise of social media platforms inside the enterprise and out now means that entire managements now see “emergent” leaders and processes. These aren’t designed for or planned; they materialize directly from the perceived needs of concerned individuals and teams who now have the ability to self-organize inside the firewall and out because of these media.

The challenge is in understanding, how much self-organizing is beneficial and how the emergence of unplanned and undesigned activities  is accepted and supported. Or do the managers still believe that in these turbulent conditions they are the ones who know best what kind of combinations of competences are needed in any given task and where they can be found inside the corporation. Or even if the given tasks are the most  productive ones…

What is the role of serendipity in this context?

Our approach towards serendipity has developed during the early years of Karostech, when we were involved in the development and management of some of the leading coworking scenes in the world – like netWork Oasis in Joensuu Science Park. The lessons learnt were valuable and the core message today is that innovative workspaces has to be designed keeping the serendipity aspect well in focus. This applies both for the design of physical space and the configuration of virtual collaboration platforms.  The outcome is a ”hybrid space” where innovation activities are supported  continuously. And the benefits can be harnessed best, when using serendipity management principles.

From innovation perspective we definitely need to encourage the new combinations of competences to emerge.

In a corporate world, where we are too busy to innovate, where employees are getting more decision power  and where “don’t make any plans, keep your focus in sagacity instead” – principle is becoming a winning formula, we surely have to respect the value created by serendipitous encounters and events. From innovation perspective we definitely need to encourage the new combinations of competences to emerge. The conclusion made by Scharage in the end of his blog makes an elementary point.

The bottom line: the most important impact of social media technologies comes from who — and what — they empower, not just the information they exchange. Do organizations appreciate and understand that these tools put them in the “empowerment” and not just the “better communications” business?

To empower the whole organization and especially those still unidentified initiators and intrapreneurs inside the company will give serendipity the chance to benefit your business, providing the much appreciated boost, which is needed for your company to thrive.

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