Lee Bryant’s actually presented on of the most interesting presentations I’ve watched during LIFT, his presentation was about how to effectively collect and empower knowledge inside companies. Lee is founder of HEADSHiFT.COM a social software consulting focussed on the development of social tools for the work environment.
Most of his premisses are based on a set of general thoughts: we should just be re-factoring the factory, but “we should also be using technology to feed our minds instead of the machines”! Tools should serve people’s actions, not the other way around. People are better and have greater power in activities like pattern matching. Most IT systems (definitely) don’t understand the way we work, the way our brain works! People have peripheral vision and intuition, abilities we’ve always used on our life’s, abilities that aren’t only hard to achieve but their also quite hard to emulate on the computer level. Based on this small set of thoughts we’re simply wasting way to much knowledge on the enterprise and large organizations today!
So the question Lee posed was what can technology do to stop the waste?
The now so called web 2.0, is actually giving place to a more accepted “social web” and with it, we’re witnessing the birth of a new set of tools: The Social Tools: tools like wikis, blogs, bookmark sharing sites like del.icio.us, cms’s, and a whole bunch more tools and websites, what Social Tools have in particular is that they intrinsically harness the network effect to get better along the way, feeding themselves on what people do while using them, in particular with the information people produce by using them.
So what’s the definition of the new enterprise IT working environment, the “enterprise 2.0”?
The IT infrastructure for the next generation of enterprises, those companies that will effectively use employees power as competitive advantage, will certainly for sure master social tools, as a mean to harness knowledge and effectively share it across all their structure dimensions. These social tools will need to create an ecosystem of information, data and will depend on a connected infrastructure that facilitates the idea or notion of information everywhere or ever present information scenario. Participation is mandatory, not only with the purpose of sharing information, but also because internal staff reputation will probably be built upon those contributions.
Lee also mentioned one important feature, these so called social tools must effective have to ensure their success: subscription and aggregation. Together their the only way you can actually be acknowledged and get to know, what’s being made and updated on your enterprise universe.
In general today’s companies are searching for better internal understanding, more effective and better collaboration, better decisions. In general we’re talking about gathering and optimizing the Collective Intelligence. CI already exists in some defined communities today, like Wikipedia, Digg, Slashdot, etc. and it reflects their native cultures and norms, and in large companies, they’re just like most of those communities, they have the “man power” to scale and take advantage of these collective intelligence gathering tools. CI represents both a challenge and an opportunity for the IT departments within those companies. Too much time and knowledge is being wasted today’s, which reinforces the idea of possible massive savings in terms of productivity, effective work, increased peripheral vision, reduce duplication and extend the work relationships in a more closer and personal matter: people might contact themselves directly instead of depending on the rigid structures most companies have to get in touch with someone.
With all this information sharing inside and outside of the enterprise, another problem arises, how can we effectively sort out what to read, or even write?
Individuals, groups and divisions inside the companies work as funnels: on a typical day you might have 100 items suggested by your social network, from those, 10 might be sufficiently important for you to link or tag them, but in the end you’ll only write/blog about one entirely. So social reading and filtering drives relevance! Others can also share what you blog, link or tag, information is most probably finding you these days instead of the other way around if you already take part on such groups.
Lee’s presentation left some nice tips towards the CI in the enterprise: start by deploying some social tools, tools that allow you to have feeds everywhere for everything, so that people might subscribe what interests them and be notified as soon as new information is available. Create ways of adding value to your online library, tools like social news-readers, allowing people to recommend and share bookmarks and documentation between them. Allow people to create internal blogs, as a window to their functions and work inside the company. Tools that not only share collections and remixes of other documents, posts, etc, but also allow some sort of social search driven by attention data and link authority.
So, as you can see, software isn’t enough, to reach the second wave adopters, not you or me, but the remaining working force, we need to actually create localized or situated apps like Lee mentioned, applications that are designed not to change behavior, but to extend the already existing workspaces, in a sense that they facilitate and augment todays tasks, having always in mind the collective intelligence harness that their supposed to collect and redistribute.
In the end, it’s all about context and engagement.