Network or proximity ? Where’s the value for businesses ?

Web 2.0 Expo Europe 2008Social networks seem to be used to fit nearly any case, regardless to the fact their value come from the context. As an example, my newtorks on facebook and linkedin have nothing in common, links are built upon different criterias, in different contexts. Knowing than Mr. so-and-so is one of my contacts on one or the oher may help to understand the nature of our relationships. But in each case there’s a commonb point : one asked the other to validate we were contacts and the other agreed according to his own criterias. Materializing this relation built a link.

But the link can be created differently. Not only according to relations but objects.  Dopplr uses travels as objects. Lastfm songs. FlickR pictures as I mentioned here. What creates the link is not the fact people know each others but an object

Not let’s imagine we’re in an enterprise context.

What’s the personal link related network within an enterprise ? People start by adding the ones they work with every day. Then they accept their superiors because refusing would be diplomatically hard. Then, followin the same logic, they link their subordinates. Then across the organization because we use to have coffee breaks together or use the same bus lie. Whatever : the only fact we have the same employer is enough to link one another. So we may have two kinds of result : either people reproduce the organization chart or eveyone is linked to every other. I do not use the “friend” or “relationship” in purpose.

What the interest for the employees ? None : the corporate directory would give him the same result. For the company ? None too : organizations know their orghanization chart and their employees directory (although….). Whatever. The general public web model does not operate in a corporate context.

So, what’s the solution ?

Enterprise social networks’s purpose being performance at work, links must rely on work. On the work two people may have done together, of course, but not only. The fact two people are interested in the same same things, have the same concerns, have to face similar situations may imply that connecting them and making them work and think together may be a beneficial thing. This connection may be an initiative of their own, if they have the possibility to find one the other or of the company provided it has the means to identify them. In both cases it would be a win win connection : two, or more, people, who’ll be able to do things together, a company that will find opportunities for synergies… But the criteria upon wich people will be linked, which can only be an object, has still be found if we rely on what’s writen above.

Business oriented social objects can be blog posts, participation ino a wiki, the fact people are interested in the same things (same taxonomy of folksonomy on produced or read objects), the fact people exchange by email, IM etc…

That wil help to emphasize a kind of intellectual or business proximity. This will makes it easier for companies to rely on their informal networks, but also to bring together people who don’t know each other and would have many benefits working together. The art of realizing the full employee’s human capita…

The business oriented social object matters more, within companies, than a simple relationship. Surprising ? That’s not because one mixes up with another in their every day life at the office, talk about banality, their relatonship is valuable in a business context, even if they sometimes have to collaborate. That’s not because I don’t know a colleague based in another country that we don’t have a community of expertise, of interest, which is valuable for the company. Remember my whales tale.

In brief the concept of business oriented social object, relying on user generated content has real business value and enterprises should work on it, mostly in these hard times when knowing how to do more with less is key, when connecting is better than scattering.

A good way to get familiar with this idea may be to follow Jyri Engerstrom’s keynote at the Berlin’s Web 2.0 expo that’s taking place this week. Learn what social objects are and guess how to use them at work…

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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