How to link formal and informal within the enterprise : the “still” company

Since intangible assets only create value when they support formal business process, enterprises don’t have to create an enterprise 2.0 organization relying on informal but a system allowing formal and structured activities to take advantage from what isn’t.

If we want to visualize that, the “still” metaphor seems very relevant to me.

In order to extract valuable things from enterprise’s tacit knowledge, all these things have to be shaked to provoke a reaction. This implies two prerequisites : it has to happen in a context that encourages expression and confrontation, that’s to say within a social network, and that this network has to be stimulated. This first sphere is informal and unstructured on two sides : informations are not structured and interactions between people are not predefined.

This stimulation phase is, a the beginning, the role of managers which it’s the job, whether we assume it or not, or of some people whose contribution is too often neglected such as librarians or archivists, or even people whose job doesn’t exist yet. But, like any chemical reaction it also feeds itself, making emerge its own stimulating agents.

Of course, this reaction needs external elements to take place. It’s facilitated when things like trust, alignment, shared benefits and sense are gathered. When the reaction starts it also drains some feelings off, as digengaement, lack of trust and negative behaviors in general. The more you inject positive elements, the stronger the reaction is, the more it’s able to drain negative elements off

This part of the proecess is about the famous 80% part of the knowledge which is informal. It needs highly involved managers and relevant tools (ie enterprise social software). But don’t fool ourselves : the key factor is the human one.

This reaction allows ideas, suggestions to emerge, best practices formalization. It’s why it’s important to have both a stimulation process and a tool that helps harnessing information : local expertises, at last formalized but often not roughed out, become ressources that can be used by the whole company. But thos elements are not always useful or usable in their present state by the company for its needs. That’s when a regulation process is needed : it’s about organizing how all the harnessed information can be used for business purposes.

This process needs both people and tools. People because new behaviors have to be developed. Those who can turn ideas into action have to take them into account, to refocus, to insist on some issues, to ask people to digg some things further, to increase the status of those who play the game. Tools because it’s essential to make unstructured datas usable for formal process. For example for business intelligence, CRM… the purpose is to reformat datas in order to make them usable by processing tools

It’s an intermiate zone between what precedes and what follows, it’s the key point to create value since the 80% knowledge that is informal is useless if companies can’t use it.

All this pours out in the usual formal sphere we all know. This sphere is doubly structured : people’s activities follow process, information follows workflows and processing tools like ERPs are already there. Datas are structured and formated, so they can be used for BI, be processed, be available and searchable by who needs it.

This sphere can only treat 20% of the company’s information, the formal 20% as Nonaka explains it. Hope the proposed schema will help business activities to use much more than those 20%. That takes us close to the “Ba” of the SECI model by Nonaka.

The described process also produces qualitatives elements : more satisfaction because people see their ability to propose and innovate is really harnessed, a stronger membership feeling due to increased interactions between people, more trust, motivation.

Of course this schema is only a “beta” version…but I’m looking forward to having your first impressions.

Ce schéma n’est bien sur qu’une ébauche et je suis impatient d’avoir vos retours.

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Head of People and Business Delivery @Emakina / Former consulting director / Crossroads of people, business and technology / Speaker / Compulsive traveler
Head of People and Business Delivery @Emakina / Former consulting director / Crossroads of people, business and technology / Speaker / Compulsive traveler

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