“We build too many walls and not enough bridges.” – Isaac Newton
In a world of the new web we have never been this connected. The farthest nodes of our social networks have never been this close. In a world where everything has become at arm’s reach, where all our acquaintances are a phone call, a text message, a tweet away… we have never been this disconnected. I’m not being a better-never and I’m not blaming it on the technology. I believe we are the ones using the tools the wrong way. A fool with a tool makes a more empowered fool and thus a worse one. I’m merely voicing out some thoughts I’ve been rummaging lately and I’d love to discuss this further in the comment section if you’re interested.
When friends become our main source of information
Our social network is turning into our main source of information. Scoble often boasts about how his Twitter timeline has come to replace his RSS streamline. While the latter can be a rather objective source (assuming it’s diversified enough to gather different points of view) the first is more susceptible to subjectivity. Whereas we used to mine the information from soi-disant its source, we now get it second handed, digested, reassembled by our social network and presented to us with a thick layer of our friends’ opinions.
I’m aware that even while making our opinions based on blogs, books, newspapers or TV channels, we are to fall for a reductive conception of the world. But the lines are not that much blurry. If I solely watch Fox News, God forbids, tagging me wouldn’t be much of a challenge. Now if my like-minded friends and I are the core of your social network, for any reason other than our “sensible” positions of the world’s issues, you are to become a Fox-News-paradigm-adherent without even being conscious about it. You are getting so drowned in a deluge of consenting opinions that you would subconsciously end up thinking: If everyone thinks so then it must be true (Let us not get into the insurmountable wrongness of such assumption, we however can’t deny it’s a common trap we fall for). We have become the window through which you see the world, and that window is small, limiting and colored (the politically correct for stained). The issue isn’t our capacity of bias, which is somewhat high if you think about it, the issue is rather our non-awareness of being biased.
Here is a quick fix you might say: “I can add up some sane dose of opposite poles here and there to my social network and Problem solved!” It’s easier said than done. The main issue is its being counterintuitive. While building our social network, the most solid connections are those with people who resemble us. And according to the Strong Triadic Closure property, if the node has strong ties to two neighbors, then these neighbors must have a tie between them. This translates into more connections to like-minded people. Breaking such mechanism takes much more effort than most of us care to deploy. So, we end up with chunks of the network, tightly knitted more or less biased sub-networks that are almost oblivious to the world outside, Autistic networks.
So I’ve been really thinking, how do we fix this? How can we lead our social networks and thus ourselves out of our autism? Here is my humble attempt at finding answers.
1) Reaching out to networks outside our social circle might be a first step into becoming aware of positions different from our own. I have experienced this firsthand last year and realized how little I knew about the Arabic Blogosphere and how much of good content I was missing out on.
2) We need to stop preaching openness and really start communicating (as in listening first). Social Media offer us a stage to voice out our opinions easily and freely (in most cases), but it is often used in a self-centered kind of way. Engaging into meaningful constructive conversations should be one of our main concerns.
3) We need to accept our differences, get out there, embrace fresh perspectives and learn to appreciate an idea for itself and not for the person voicing it.
Here are some snippets from article I found mostly interesting last month. I hope you’ll enjoy them just as much as I did. Have a blessed February!
Every Worker Is a Knowledge Worker By Evan Rosen
If you’re not soliciting input from the employees who haul boxes, assemble products, and drive delivery trucks, you’re missing out on profitable ideas.
The terms “knowledge worker” and “manual worker” are no longer mutually exclusive.
In command-and-control companies, value creation suffers because management makes decisions in a vacuum without broad input.
In a collaborative organization, on the other hand, all workers’ knowledge counts, regardless of their roles… And most important, information flows in multiple directions rather than cascading from senior leadership down through multiple levels of management to front-line people.
Any employee might have information and input that can help the organization develop better products and services, manage real business performance, bridge strategy and execution, make better and faster decisions, and increase profit.
The facets of collaboration – Enter the matrix! By Paul Culmsee
Out of all of the material that I researched, I found that these four dimensions or facets of collaboration (task, trait, transactional, social) helped me explain most collaborative scenarios.
Task Based Collaboration (Outcome driven): members do not necessarily have shared interests beyond the outcome being delivered.
Trait Based Collaboration (Interest Driven): trait based groups tend to come together to share their learning and experiences. It is the shared interest that drives the members’ attention and participation.
Transactional Based Collaboration (Process Driven): the people in the process can often be “swapped out” with other people, because transactional process is designed to be well defined, optimised and easy to follow consistently.
Social Based Collaboration (Insight Driven): This is usually characterised by more ad-hoc sharing of perspectives and information. It is realisation or insight through pattern sensing via group interaction, rather than structured business rules.
Social Business is about people first. Enterprise 2.0 is primarily about technology that enables business processes (or, more accurately, barely repeatable processes and process exceptions) via human interaction. Both are valid and valuable approaches to structuring and running an organization, but it is critical to know which one your company values most. Does it want to be a social business that emphasizes and connects people, or an entity that uses Web 2.0 technologies to achieve business goals when rigid, transactional systems can’t help? Answer that question first, then choose your technology solution.
“Madness of Crowds” or “Wisdom of Groups”? By Leslie Brokaw
Researchers concluded that “group intelligence” correlates less with the intelligence of the individuals and more with the social sensitivity of group members, an equality in how conversation is handled, and even the proportion of females in the group.
“[Senior author of the study] Malone and colleagues could not find an example in which people had asked the relatively simple question of whether groups had intelligence, the same way individual people do.”
Why has that question not been asked before? Why is it difficult to think of a group as having a measurable intelligence? “There’s been a tendency to focus on the negative, the mob psychology, the idea that people can bring out the worst in each other,” Robert Goldstone, a professor of psychological and brain sciences at Indiana University, told the Globe. “There’s just as much evidence that people can bring out the best in each other.”
Social Learning, Collaboration, and Team Identity By Larry R. Irons
Organizational analysts refer to the challenge of establishing team identity as a boundary definition problem for teams, when members are spread across large distances whether geographic or cultural in nature.
Social software tools in the Enterprise, such as awareness/sharing tools (Yammer, Chatter, etc.), or collaboration tools (Wikis, blogs, discussion forums, etc.) assumed that increased information sharing would decrease such boundary definition problems among distributed teams… Mortensen thinks it is unclear that reducing boundary disagreement on distributed teams results in positive performance… Lack of an agreement on who is a member of a distributed team does not present a problem that needs solving in order to manage performance. The awareness that differences exist about who is on distributed teams, and recommendations on how to manage those differences, point to the focus needed on collaboration from management.
Collaboration isn’t just about people sharing information to achieve common goals. Collaboration is about people working with other people to achieve common goals and create value. Even though goal-orientation is a big part of collaborating, collaboration requires more to achieve goals effectively. It requires shared experience.