Sep 2, 2010

Benefits of Social Sharing in Organizations 2.0

I believe that behaviour in the consumer space that people are exhibiting on Facebook and Twitter and other social technologies will be replicated within organizations soon. In the US - tools like Yammer, Socialtext, Socialcast and others are already making this possible.

However people always ask "why should people share within the enterprise?". Here's an interesting post I came across that shows how this behaviour is a generational change and how people using these technologies think differently about work and the hows and whys of work.

Andrew McAfee blogs on the HBR site on How Millennials' Sharing Habits Can Benefit Organizations
Matt Gallivan, a senior research analyst for NPR, who said "Sharing is not 'the new black,' it is the new normal. There are too many benefits to living with a certain degree of openness for Digital Natives to 'grow out of it.' Job opportunities, new personal connections, professional collaboration, learning from others' experiences, etc., are all very powerful benefits to engaging openly with others online, and this is something that Gen Y understands intuitively."

Older generations of knowledge worker, including mine, don't share this intuition. We basically work in private, or in small groups of close colleagues, and only share our output — papers, reports, plans, presentations, analyses, and so on — once we consider it done.

Gen Y finds this approach somewhere between quaint and dumb. They inherently follow the advice of blog pioneer Dave Winer to "narrate your work" — to use 2.0 tools like blogs, microblogs, and social networking software to broadcast not only the finished products of knowledge work, but also the work in progress.

Millennials are more likely to talk publicly about the tasks and projects they're working on, the progress they're making, the resources they're finding particularly helpful, and the questions, roadblocks and challenges that come up. This narration becomes part of the digital record of the organization, which means that it becomes searchable, findable, and reference-able.

As this happens, two broad benefits materialize. First, people who narrate their work become helpful to the rest of the organization, because the digital trail they leave makes others more efficient. Second, by airing their questions and challenges work narrators open themselves up to good ideas and helpfulness from others, and so become more efficient themselves.

As Gallivan says, the Facebook generation understands these benefits, while other workers often do not. Older generations are more likely to see work narration as a narcissistic waste of time. Gen Y, meanwhile, knows that narrating their work, when done right, saves time, increases productivity, and knits the organization together more tightly. We should start following their lead and stop reflexively working in private.

We will see norms and behaviours evolve in this space - but it points to one thing specially in the Learning aspect, its more important to know the hows and whys of what people have learnt than the learning itself. That is the key to unlearning - the critical skill in the new generation.

What do you think?

Do you think this will lead to a clash of generational styles of working in the organization?