Friday, October 15, 2010

Get connected

The buzz around Web 2.0 starts getting unbearable. Everyone is doing it. Last week there was a presentation by Capgemini Consulting on campus, and they were proudly telling about their featured project on culture change at a manufacturing company in Finland through proliferation of Web 2.0 tools (Facebook, Wikis, messengers, etc.). Social Network, the movie, is what everyone is talking about these days. Our lives are changing, but what is more interesting - the perceptions and underlying beliefs are altering as well.

Connected: The Surprising Power of Our Social Networks and How They Shape Our LivesFor instance, I grew up believing that bad news travel much faster than good news. Really, the grapevine has always been thriving on chaos, suffering and misery. Nowadays, primarily because of social networks, happiness spreads more robustly than unhappiness, according to Nicholas Christakis and James Fowler, authors of the book Connected: The Surprising Power of Our Social Networks and How They Shape Our Lives:
Our connections affect every aspect of our daily lives. . . . How we feel, what we know, whom we marry, whether we fall ill, how much money we make, and whether we vote all depend on the ties that bind us. Social networks spread happiness, generosity, and love. They are always there, exerting both subtle and dramatic influence over our choices, actions, thoughts, feelings, even our desires. And our connections do not end with the people we know. Beyond our own social horizons, friends of friends of friends can start chain reactions that eventually reach us, like waves from distant lands that wash up on our shores.

The problem with Web 2.0 at work though is that the news is not always happy for all people. Let's say someone gets promoted - some people will be lining up to attack, and guess what: if there is something negative they have to say about the person, who is getting promoted, a social network is a perfect platform.

What the social networks really bring into the organization is creativity, which can become unleashed. In a recent Gallup article we find that:
Much of creativity is just new combinations put together from different pieces of information and material. That's how networks can really amplify creativity.
Thus, it looks like social networks are winning the battle over the corporate mind, but I guess there is a limit to anything. No matter how conducive they may be for virtual collaboration, knowledge sharing, newcomer integration, etc., too much of anything is bad for you. At least this maxim, which we learnt as kids, still holds water.

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