Social media tools are such a marvelous technological leap. Although they are merely a conglomeration of technologies existing for some time, the two-way nature completely changes how they effect people. There is no reason why social media can't be used within the confines of an organization; used to enable fellow workers to commiserate on topics of common interest.
When your coworkers and you are engaged using social media you can accomplish great things. You can have discussions, you can post events, you can seek out expertise when required and you can research topics to accomplish your work. One of the best use cases of these Web 2.0 technology brought inside the Enterprise is to capture the creative ideas residing in the brains of the workforce. Once captured these ideas can be enhanced by soliciting feedback from the team. Then they can be analyzed using criteria the organization normally applies in order to vet new concepts.
This enabling technology has spawned a slew of companies selling "idea management" software. For the most part idea management systems are collaborative tools accessed via a browser. They look and act quite a bit like Facebook. Like Facebook users can post things of interest (like links, images, files, videos, events, news, RSS feeds) allowing others to comment. Similarly the logged in crowd can read members' biographies. The major distinction is with idea management software, you can challenge the crowd by soliciting their ideas on a given topic...and the membership can vote.
The idea management software out there typically uses some sort of "idea promotion" scheme. This is because when you open up a collaborative tool within the enterprise, the problem isn't that you won't get enough ideas. The problem is you'll get too many ideas. So you need some sort of automated mechanism based on a promotion scheme to automatically promote the best ideas. Invariably "the best" is determined by the wisdom of the crowd. And the wisdom of the crowd is determined by all sorts of social media interactions.
Here are some sample schemes used by the idea management software vendors.
- The idea with the most votes "wins".
- The idea with the most "participation" wins. This means some sort of weighted measure of the most votes, the most comments, the most votes on comments, the most "views", the most bookmarks, the most "follows", etc.
- The idea who gets the most "weighted" votes wins. This means everyone's reputation is measured. Collaborators who submit the most contributions get the highest "reputation" score. And the idea which gets the most votes from those with the best reputation wins.
- Ideas who have gone through some sort of rigorous analysis win. So if an idea has been viewed by certain identified team members; if the the idea has been "checked off" by the right people; if the idea has had its attributes filtered through some sort of designated (and agreed upon) lens, THEN it gets promoted to the next step.
In an ideal world the idea management system allows each organization to determine the promotion scheme. Or even better, the software enables the creator of the challenge to apply a certain selected promotion scheme to each one. This sort of flexibility is also beneficial if each challenge can have a selected group of people working on it at various stages...in other words it may be preferred that a group of engineers work on Challenge X and a group of cross discipline folks work on Challenge Y and a group of customers work on Challenge Z.
Which brings to mind that certain challenges may be best addressed by our fellow employees. Yet some other challenges might provide the best results when the organizations Partners participate (e.g. a discussion of how to utilize sales channels). Still other challenges might best be addressed by soliciting the opinions of our Customers (e.g. what colors should we offer for our new product coming soon).
Idea management systems provide some wonderful things for an organization.
- Once everyone is talking together on line within the system you get Organizational Engagement.
- By using challenges your organization gets Strategic Alignment (everyone is talking about what the group's management is worried about).
- The system acts as a Knowledge Management system (so members can find information and experts when they are required).
I'll write more in the future on the subject of idea management systems; the use of social media within the enterprise to collaborate in a way that improves the internal communication at any organization. This will include:
- Why your organization should have an idea management system.
- What to look for in an idea management system.
- How to encourage adoption of the new idea management system.
- How idea management systems use social science (along with social media) to determine the best ideas.
as well as respond to any inquiries I receive.
Development of new concepts within any organization requires Structure. And other types of software systems can guide an organization through various processes to develop good ideas. The front end of innovation is "fuzzy" and benefits by having a collaborative tool, based on social media, to provide the sort of chaotic, disruptive milieu where creativity can flourish.