‘Disparate’ perhaps wouldn’t describe it best, but definitely 3 different posts in terms of scope and point of focus, but which I thought were in their own way, circling one of this blog’s favourite topics – how organisations can fundamentally become more social – not just from a usage of tools across its ‘silos’ but more from an ‘adding meaning to the individual and society’ perspective.
Stowe Boyd’s post titled ‘Are you ready for social software‘ not only gave me perspectives on the subject of the post, and title – social software, but also gave me a way to connect these three posts. He starts of with challenging the belief that Sherlock Holmes used deduction to solve the mysteries.
It turns out he (or better, Arthur Conan Doyle) was using induction, which is, according to Webster’s, “the act or process of reasoning from a part to a whole, from particulars to generals, or from the individual to the universal.” In working from a paltry collection of clues to a full understanding of the actions and motives of the butler and his victim, Holmes/Doyle was, basically, developing a picture of the universe surrounding the crime from a few hints.
He goes on to distinguish social software from software built for several purposes taken to mean ‘social’.
Social software is based on supporting the desire of individuals to affiliate, their desire to be pulled into groups to achieve their personal goals. Contrast that with the groupware approach to things where people are placed into groups defined organizationally or functionally…..Traditional groupware puts the group, the organization or the project first, and individuals second….. Social software reflects the “juice” that arises from people’s personal interactions. It’s not about control, it’s about co-evolution: people in personal contact, interacting towards their own ends, influencing each other.
Its a fascinating read and he quotes Kenneth Boulding, the economist, humanist and social scientist,“We make our tools, and then they shape us.” I thought that was an amazing way to look at it, and if you think for a moment on how tools have changed the way you behave, interact, consume, I’m sure you’ll appreciate it too.
Amazingly, even without getting into software or technology, I saw an application of this thought process in Tom Fishburne’s Wiki Wall, a symbol of organisational creativity that could prove more useful than the traditional ‘brainstorm’. The wiki wall (a real whiteboard/surface) allows ideas to be shared, collaborated on, and evolve over a period of time beyond the silos that the organisation might have. Shared belief systems and thoughts around which people could group together.
Which then brings us to the ‘larger purpose’ that an organisation exists for. This purpose is something that has popped up here many times in the recent past, the last being ‘A Social Culture‘. I found it expressed extremely well in Umair Haque’s post on the way ‘social’ needs to evolve.
Social is significance. The real promise of social tools is societal, not just relational; is significance, not just attention. You’ve got to get the first right before you tackle the second — and that means not just investing in “gamification,” a Twitter account, or a Facebook group. It means thinking more carefully how to utilize those tools to get a tiny bit (or a heckuva lot) more significant, and starting to mean something in enduring terms.
For now, most organisations are looking at social tools (including software) to meet their business ends, and not looking to make the business’ ‘reason for existence’ itself something people – both employees and consumers- would associate with. Hopefully, by the time they deduct the importance of this, it won’t be too late.
until next time, elementary?