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Organizational Self Discovery

January 28, 2010

It was two and a half years ago that Confused of Calcutta ran a great series of posts on Facebook and the Enterprise. JP has now cycled back around to discuss something he’s calling the Facebookisation of the Enterprise. (I know you’re wondering what this has to do with Organizational Self Discovery, just hang in with me for a few paragraphs.)

You see, the game has changed. Now we aren’t talking about how and whether Big Businesses will allow Facebook to operate inside their walls. Now we’re talking about how our experience with social and collaborative tools on the wild wild Net are changing our expectations for how corporate support systems can and should work. Whether Facebook or Twitter are allowed in your company, tools like them are a big part of your employees and colleagues lives, and having a dramatic impact on our understanding of how people collaborate.

In the knowledge management space, its been clear for a long time that the heavyweight command-and-control static intranet KM systems can’t keep up with dynamic, collaborating, active communities. Sure, you might have to use sharepoint or some document management tool to keep up with the latest copies of formal documents. But the actual give-and-take collaboration of figuring out what to work on next and what the answers should be, and the links most people will use to get to them, are better enabled by a grassroots, organic, wiki-like tool. Rather than some central administrator telling you what information you need to digest and in what sort of structure, the community can figure that out on its own.

JP is envisioning a similar evolution in the corporate directory, messaging, scheduling, and information filtering tools we use. What I love about this post in particular is that the ideas come down out of the abstract philosophere and right down to earth. The self registering and self organizing capabilities he describes are easily deliverable right now.

These tools should (and can) help each person easily slide into and out of roles and communities, discover what their interests and needs are based on their current priorities.

I like the fact that in this environment, the binary distinction we make in enterprise systems between Employee and Not-Employee really start to smear out, or blur, into a spectrum of possible levels of community involvement. And maybe enable us to start thinking about smearing out our corporate boundaries as well. And I’m not talking about the “outlook web access”-style portal into the closed organizational world. Our corporate edges need to work more like cell membranes than Great Walls.

I don’t want a PMO to set up a formal project hierarchy, org chart, and mailing lists. I want corporate systems that support me finding who I need based on what I’m trying to do. With self-referential feedback loops that help me learn which connections are most useful and which are not based on others experiences before me.

James Marwood, in a comment over at Confused, says that having tasted this kind of capability will affect his future employment choices. An open, dynamic, collaborative environment will give clever companies a hiring advantage. Like the free soft drinks, sofas, and foosball tables that ’90’s dotcom startups used to compete for the best talent.

Give your company the right tools, and it will discover for itself how to best organize to get the job done.

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