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Sunday, February 14, 2010

Ideas Are Core to Enterprise 2.0

by Hutch Carpenter

Ideas Are Core to Enterprise 2.0Brian Solis spoke recently on what the future of social networks will be. Ideas, it turns out. As I wrote on another blog post:


"Solis, leading thinker in the integration of social media and PR, recently spoke on an intriguing concept: ideas connect us more than relationships. The premise of his argument is that ideas are what elicit passion in people. They animate us, and if we find someone with a similar interest in a given idea, we connect."


Then there was this observation by Intel's Enterprise 2.0 lead Laurie Buczek on the only quantifiable value they found in their Enterprise 2.0 efforts:


"Where we did quickly find quantifiable business value during an ideation proof of concept. Ideas that are discovered and turned into action have produced dollarized return of business value."


Both Brian and Laurie are pointing to the unique nature of ideas. Brian talks of ideas as connectors. Laurie talks of ideas being 'discovered'. If Enterprise 2.0 rests on delivering value through collaborative, emergent and social means, ideas are the top basis for leveraging these qualities.

Of course, from a pragmatic, what-do-businesses-care-about perspective, innovation is a top priority.

The top-down, Board-level importance of innovation is not a surprise. As I've seen repeatedly with our enterprise innovation work at Spigit, ideas are an excellent bottom-up basis for Enterprise 2.0.


Ideas Are Me

Perhaps the most important aspect of social is the ability to express what you're thinking. Ideas fit this dynamic quite well. Ideas are...
  • Expressions of my creativity, ingenuity and problem-solving

Inside companies, we see things that we know can be improved. We see opportunities that need to be explored. We know a good answer for a particular challenge put forth by managers.

Every time you have an idea, a bit of you bonds to it. Your way of thinking, your understanding of context, the experiences you've had, the expertise you bring to bear, the work aspirations you have.

Ideas can be small, giving you satisfaction in fixing something obvious to you. They can be big, offering the possibility of work that elicits your passions.

This is powerful stuff. It is a unique intersection of something that helps the company with something that personally satisfies you.


Ideas Are the Basis for Finding Like-Minded Colleagues

When I post an idea, I create the basis for finding others. That because when I post an idea, I'm making...
  • A call for your interest

Think about that. The act of publishing an idea is a broadcast across the organization. It's a tentative query to see who else feels the same way. Or if not the same way, who has an interest that overlaps mine.

This is unique to ideas. Ideas are potential. They are a change from the status quo. There are others who share at least some aspect of your idea. In large, distributed organizations, where are these people?!!

My idea is my call to form my own virtual team, to see who can help me accomplish something of value to me and the organization. I contrast this with other types of activities one might do under the Enterprise 2.0 umbrella: status updates, project tasks, writing a common document, adding content to knowledge wiki. Those aren't calls to form virtual teams.

Ideas have a unique quality in team and community forming, consistent with the emergent nature of Enterprise 2.0.


Ideas Are Social Objects

A key consideration of any framework for interaction is, "what are we going to talk about?" Within the enterprise environment, an idea is...
  • A social object for our interaction

The concept of social objects is powerful. It illuminates the core basis for why two or more people interact. They share an interest in some thing. We are complex beings, with multiple different interests. We won't ever match up with someone else exactly in terms of what animates. But social objects allow a sort of miniature Venn Diagram of our common interests to flourish.

Hugh MacLeod pragmatically notes, "The Social Object, in a nutshell, is the reason two people are talking to each other, as opposed to talking to somebody else."

Leading designer Joshua Porter, also known as Bokardo. In his post, Finding Innovation in Design, he describes the AOF method of social experience design:
  • A = activity you want to support
  • O = social objects that define the activity
  • F = features are actions people take upon social objects

You build social-oriented sites around a core set of objects and activities which attract people.

Ideas, because they represent something new, something that can affect your daily work, are terrific social objects. An idea is a proposal, and a natural basis for interacting. Contrast this with posting a document, or a page of knowledge, or a status update. Those are lower wattage, more ephemeral social objects.


Ideas Become Projects

Ideas get attention. They propose to change things, and they will need work. An idea is...
  • The basis of a future project for us

What makes ideas so powerful is they are changes to the status quo. This means:
  • They're going to affect people's daily work
  • They require some work to make happen

This imbue ideas with a certain vitality. It gives them a power not seen with with other types of social computing activities, save projects themselves.

Another important aspect is that ideas will elicit passion in certain users, those we talked about earlier. If there is a chance to become part of a project team working on the idea, that is exciting. Consider times in your life you got to be part of a team, working on something that excited you.

Ideas have these qualities: possibilities, change to work routines, chance to be part of an exciting initiative. Projects have a certain aspirational quality for us employees, and ideas tap this aspect well.

There are many types of content and activities - social objects - that are part of a social computing initiative. I'd argue ideas, for a host of reasons, should be considered top amongst those social objects.


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Hutch CarpenterHutch Carpenter is the Vice President of Product at Spigit. Spigit integrates social collaboration tools into a SaaS enterprise idea management platform used by global Fortune 2000 firms to drive innovation.

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3 Comments:

Anonymous Esteban Kolsky said...

"Huge" (sorry, could not resist from Fred's typo couple of days ago) -- I mean Hutch,

Great post, really. One thing that kept popping into my mind, as good as it sounds (and as you appropriately point out), ideas are tied to people. People have ideas, and they want to share them to find someone with whom to connect -- the problems is that most 1.0 places in this world don't encourage ideas or ideators.

The people who see an idea may not tune into the author for fear of repression or retribution. This is the biggest killer of ideas today - the fear that management may not agree with it and then you are too tied to it to survive the demise of the idea.

I would therefore submit that before we focus on ideas we must make sure that the environment in which they are shared and discussed exists. Organizations must be flattened and "democratize" before ideas will have a proper place to flourish

what do you think? put the cultural aspects of the organization before the ideas?

1:10 AM  
Blogger Janelle said...

Totally agree with you on this one Hutch. Ideas and Innovation are what provides true business value to Enterprise 2.0.

7:59 AM  
Blogger The Grand Jordanian said...

Great post, Hutch. This is what I was driving at when we put together the Pfizer Innovation video, that ideas provide the context for connections and that using idea management and/or discussion board software is a great way to jump start any enterprise social networking initiative and avoid the classic failure of trying to simply enhance the corporate directory with photos and bios and expecting robust networks to form on their own. If you build it, they will not necessarily come.

I think Esteban is touching on a good point, which is that the environment in the company must be just right if we expect ideas to take flight and have the knock on effects you speak of. Only the right primordial soup will ignite life with a spark, and only an empowered workforce with time to innovate and money to fund good ideas that drive towards a shared mission will achieve anything in this space. Without it, it's all just noise!

9:21 AM  

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