Connectedness Against Complexity
by Josh Scribner, IBM Social Media Advocate
Earlier today I spoke on a Social Media Week NYC panel with Dave Gray of Dachis Group, Ming Kwan of Nokia, and John Stepper of Deutsche Bank. We had an interesting conversation, including organizing workers in pods, connecting to reduce organizational complexity, and successful adoption practices. I want to share my comments from earlier today:
IBM is a corporation of 440,000 that bears a lot of resemblance to a city. We have citizens -- employees -- with different backgrounds, philosophies, and behaviors. Those employees tend to group themselves into neighborhoods – hierarchical business units, geographies, and timezones. Are you an IBM Researcher, or a Software developer? These types of neighborhoods at IBM once felt like impenetrable silos, especially when you needed to find a particular skill or resource or process. While you know who bakes the best cupcake in your neighborhood, you may not know who bakes them best in Woodside.
I decided not to wander the streets of Woodside calling for a cupcake, and instead asked my IBM network – who bakes well in Woodside? I asked it on my profile Wall, and they gave me a couple of suggestions. They also introduced me to a community of people who liked talking about cupcakes – a [forum of foodies]. What is that, inside a company? Unstructured collaborative interactions, defined by your employees, organized in a way that they find meaningful, and indexed so that content is discoverable. This is what Connections looks like inside the city of IBM. Last month across our 33,000 active communities there were 217,000 users.
Back to the bakery hunt. Many of you turn to [Social Review websites]. That's more like what our content management system has become: well defined content, augmented by semi-anonymous voices, organized both through formal systems and informal folksonomies and social bookmarking. Our Content Management sits in parallel with our Connections spaces, overlapping at the borders, but offering the duality of structure and fluidity.
How did we get here? For those who haven't heard, IBM's all about delivering value, rather than tools. But that's not just a marketing pitch, it's part of our DNA, it's how we do everything now. When our intranet, w3, was born, it was our Communicators that drove it. And when our intranet's Web2.0 evolution happened, again, it was Communications leading the charge. Why? Because it is about value to the people. More than just rolling out streets and building bakeries, it's also about building community & culture. In a giant, global enterprise it’s how we make our size work for us; it's how we simplify the complexity.
Dave Gray blogged the other day about train lines; leaders governing through common processes, encouraging people to take broad highways and avenues, rather than less efficient but more flexible side-streets and self-hewn pathways. So I'd like to tell a humbling story about what happened to me last week.
Recently I created a small application to act as an internal social calendar for IBM. It's grown a bit, and it had become time to validate the business case for broader deployment. So I blogged. I asked users to tell me about the value of this social tool. In the past week, 220 IBMers have replied with their stories, they essentially wrote the business case for me (and made me feel very appreciated). Yes, this is an example of the power of the community; but it also demonstrates that by providing collaborative tools and encouraging a culture where people are allowed the audacity to hew new pathways when needed -- IBM enabled me to find a path to value.
Beneath the surface, all cities – and organizations – run very similarly: employees communicating, collaborating, following processes and delivering to clients. But Smarter Work, like Smarter Cities, is about empowering employees to do their jobs more effectively – better connected to the neighborhoods, knowledge, and people that they need, and able to optimize their own processes. That's what it takes to to connect a giant city like IBM -- what it takes for employees to work across silos, unencumbered by their differences, and empowered by the opportunities that different perspectives and a broader group of experts brings to each engagement. What I'm hoping you take away from this is that our companies look a lot like your companies. And that if WE can change our culture to embrace connectedness as a step toward optimization, so can you.