Monday, October 19, 2009

Reflections on Reflections on Working in Public

When we launched our Collaboratory, I mentioned that it's part web presence, part social business experiment. For now, the most experimental part is the window on our work-- a live stream of communication acts our team engages in, offering up varying degrees of information from having shared an unnamed file on a particular platform to emailing someone at a certain domain to tweeting specific, visible content. 

There are massive individual differences in comfort with transparency. As my team has spent the past few weeks sussing out the comfort zone with the public now privy to the stream, we've reflected on, discussed, and critiqued our perceptions. We're very curious what it's like on the other side of the window... What do you think about our transparency? Too much? Not really that much? Want more? 

Transparency can have a profound effect on behavior. Perhaps not a universal effect. Ironically, the psych study that comes to mind is an old great of Ken Gergen's: Deviance in the Dark (Gergen, Gergen, & Barton, 1973). Gergen was exploring the effect of darkness on behavior. He had students enter a dark room one-by-one, to get to know each other. He provided very few instructions. They chatted, talked more heatedly, and then... eventually the study was called off because it led to some scandalous and unexpectedly affectionate behaviors! Not aggressive ones, as might have been expected. 

I bring this up because of what we know from this and several other studies on deindividuation, or not being able to see or pay attention to individuals as individuals (the opposite of transparency). Deindividuation doesn't necessarily make you aggressive or affectionate, it's a powerful force in making people conform to a perceived norm. This has really interesting implications for transparency in the workplace, especially for leaders and norm-setters. Transparency may not have a single effect - be it competition or collaboration; authenticity or artifice. Read how it's affected my colleagues over the past few weeks and let us know what you think.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Dachis Group Social Business Technology Alliances

Another week, another announcement: today, about our Social Business Technology Alliance program

With such a wide spectrum of social business needs, it's important to have the flexibility to solve the problem at hand and not shoe-horn an organization into an uncomfortable platform. It should be clear by now that at Dachis Group, we believe technology is part of the overall solution; I typically write about the necessary culture and process-related changes we believe in and practice. Today, we're excited to welcome our technology partners to our ecosystem to help deliver comprehensive solutions.

Our technology and integrator partners include:
  • Atlassian Confluence - Wiki-based collaboration
  • CoTweet - Twitter for business
  • IBM Lotus Connections - Enterprise social networking tools
  • Telligent - Customer and enterprise facing communities
  • ThoughtFarmer - Social intranet software
  • SocialWare - Social Media risk management
  • Socialcast - Enterprise microblogging and social networking platform
  • Photon Infotech - Open Source Development
  • Bamboo Networks - Custom application development and rehabilitation
  • Starpoint Solutions - Application implementation and integration
Read the official release on our Collaboratory

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Social should imply specificity

[This was originally posted on the Dachis Group Collaboratory]  

There’s an inherent problem with the word social. Not “social media” or “social business.” Just social. The problem is, it doesn’t incorporate any sense of specificity to it. People are left to think that all things social are massive connectivity festivals. Really, being social is about connecting with sensible, specific others, typically, for specific reasons.

It’s great to open things up and give people freedom, but specificity-- that is, some focus or structure- is what really unleashes talent. Specificity comes in many forms of social systems. As Tom Malone et al. point out, the “genome” of collective intelligence can be broken down into Who (staffing), What (goal), Why (incentives), and How (process). Each of these "genes" demand specificity.

Take the Netflix Challenge, for one: its success as a crowdsourced effort was attributed to connecting the right people only after some jockeying happened. It was not a result of all participants being connected, helter-skelter. Often throwing too many people into the mix leads to hasty and irrational outcomes due to groupthink or lazy free-loading, as a result of social loafing -- not to mention pluralistic ignorance where we incorrectly assume acceptance of a given norm.

A less oft-cited method of making a social system work has less to do with who is connected and more to do with what you ask of those connections. This is a critical focus as researchers migrate from surveys as our mainstay methodology. Good questions are the currency of social systems that flow between the focused connections discussed above.

The other day I noticed Rypple made an important change in this direction with its “Power of One” initiative. Rypple, as you might know, lets you give and receive feedback online (anonymously), to and from select others. All humans lack an inherent sense of psychometrics, so it’s hard to know precisely what to ask, especially when the stakes are high. That is, you’re asking *specific* trusted others for self-related feedback. The inclination is to ask open-ended questions. Logic being similar to the above: connect everyone // ask people to tell you anything and any number of things. Turns out, lack of specificity leads to confusion, and in most cases non-response. Rypple is alleviating this problem by encouraging users to ask “what’s *one thing* I can do to improve.”

It’s usually one question that makes or breaks a given finding. Gallup’s one question, “Do you have a best friend at work” is the biggest predictor of workplace engagement. Other research shows that one question self-assessments of health are better predictors of mortality than an extensive battery of objective health data. Reicheld told us six years ago that your Net Promoter score is “The One Number you Need to Grow.

My point is not about measurement error and response bias, it’s about specificity. Being direct in order to make social systems effective. Finding the signal amidst the noise.

We can't go on idly talking about "social" initiatives. We must be focused in order to make social systems effective. This pertains to who is in your ecosystem, how they are connected, why they are connected, and how you measure those connections.

Being social is not necessarily complex. If you apply a lens of specificity, you can systematically simplify the situation.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Lab, Sweet Home(page)

Today we launch our laboratory on social business design: The Collaboratory.

It’s a work in progress, and today is the first step. When you arrive, you’ll notice a window on our world of work: a live stream of our communication-- sharing files, yamming, tweeting, and yes, emailing, since no one is perfect yet.

The Collaboratory moonlights as our web presence, offering more information about our company, curating readings about social business design, and eventually inviting clients to engage with us in social business. Rather than making it a static repository of knowledge, we’re testing out new ways to make it more dynamic and blur the lines of transparency and other notions, previously standards of how business has been done.

My favorite aspect of it is its experimental nature, so please participate and help us turn it into something really interesting. We've also posted our first piece of thought leadership, available for download. I hope this stimulates millions of questions from you, particularly about the interface of social science and business; I encourage you to engage, question, critique, comment. We've been thinking about these concepts for just over a year now and are excited to open our doors and engage with our ecosystem.