SOCIAL NETWORKS – Their Growing Power in Corporate Life

Posted on November 4, 2010


Here are the credentials of an expert in the digital world who has written an article we all should read:

Andrew McAfee is a principal research scientist at the Center for Digital Business at MIT. He coined the phrase “Enterprise 2.0” and his book on the topic was published in 2009 by Harvard Business School Press. In 2008, he was named the 38th most influential person in IT. He blogs at hbr.org and andrewmcafee.org and tweets as @amcafee.

[READ the complete article HERE]

I study information technology’s impact on the world of business — how it changes the way companies perform and compete. In recent years I’ve spent a lot of time looking into the phenomenon that I call Enterprise 2.0 — the use by organizations of the Web 2.0 toolkit of emergent social software platforms like wikis, blogs, microblogs, social networking software, tagging systems, prediction markets, location-based services, and so on.

All of these tools share a few properties. The first is that they place very few rules or constraints on their users — no pre-defined workflows, differentiated roles and privileges, membership criteria, or standard operating procedures.

The second is that despite this apparent fondness for chaos, they actually become pretty orderly environments; users can find what and who they’re looking for, and patterns and structure appear over time even though no one’s dictating them up front or from on high.

Third, they deliver results that are impressive even to the most hard-headed pragmatist: Wikipedia is the world’s largest reference work and its factual accuracy rivals that of the Encyclopedia Britannica, prediction markets do better than polls at predicting election winners, and strangers and friends alike answer each other’s questions on Twitter.

Fourth, these tools are pleasing and even addictive to their users. Humans are social and (at least somewhat) altruistic creatures, and we like well-designed technologies that let us interact and share with each other without mandating how we do so.

One final commonality, though, is less heartening: many organizations appear scared to death of Enterprise 2.0. They’re worried that people will use the new tools and accompanying freedom to broadcast hate speech or porn, or harass each other. They’re worried about secrets slipping over Chinese walls and firewalls. Or that people will be too critical or contrarian in public forums. That “social” is too close to “unproductive” or “time-wasting.”

They’re worried, in short, about what will happen when they actually do empower their employees with the digital toolkit of Enterprise 2.0. They seem quite concerned about what will happen when they give demonstrably powerful tools to their most important assets.