When my kids were toddlers (which was some time ago), they did one thing that always drove me crazy. They would take their coloring books of dinosaurs, princesses, Sponge Bob, or whatever was their latest fancy and attack them with abandon. Scribbles of different colors would go everywhere and bear no resemblance to the underlying outline of said dinosaurs. I would tell them, "try to stay inside the lines....try to make it look like the dinosaur really looked." But my efforts were an exercise in futility. Their only response would be "why?"
I didn't have a good answer for that question -- it just seemed to me like the right thing to do. It only dawned on me many years later that they were acting like people act -- they think creatively, expressively, and outside the lines. I, on the other hand, was thinking like a machine -- neat, orderly, and linear. Did my two decade career in information technology train me to think differently than my genetics told me to?
Of course I'm a big fan of the advancements in work (and life) that computer technology has brought us over the past forty years. However, it’s had a side effect that we’ve all come to just accept as a given. Basically, we as humans have had to conform to how computers work. Unlike machines, we think non-linearly, spatially, and combine knowledge with context – context about the people we’re working with, the history of a particular issue, cultural sensitivities, etc. Computers think in rows and columns – they don't "off road" or venture "outside the lines."
As computers have not been very good with “nuance,” we lost context. For example, Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software was huge boon to the industry, and completely transformed the efficiency in which we worked with prospects, customers, and partners. But a classic CRM trouble ticket didn’t tell you how really upset the customer was or if their problem was just a minor annoyance. Of course, we then had to compensate for the software's shortcomings – in this case, creating new fields for humans to type in information to share their observations. But this approach still must stay within the machine's structure.
Also, this neat, linear processing of information only reinforced the traditional business hierarchy. Information flows from my employees to me, then to my boss, then to his boss, then to his colleague, back down his employee, etc. Besides not being terribly efficient, it’s counter to way as humans we want to work. People are more like dogs than cats – we’re pack animals, and we thrive on the social context of the way we get things done. That’s our emotional need – it gives us joy to not only accomplish something, but to accomplish it with other people we like, respect, and learn from. The modern age took some of that away from us.
It’s taken decades, but finally computers have caught up to how humans want to work. I’m excited to have joined Jive, as the category of Social Business Software is truly transformative. Although much press is written about the public social sites such as Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube, that’s not the real story. What’s happened is that these public social sites have re-trained the workforce on how to interact – ironically back to the way we we’re more comfortable with anyway. As the power of the intersection of social behavior and technology becomes more self-evident, it is actually businesses that gain the most by harnessing this power.
As proof that this is happening now, this week Jive announced its new strategy to extend a social layer across an enterprise. As part of the strategy, Jive will deliver a series of solutions for content unification to enable organizations to surface content and activities from almost any content management system (CMS) from inside Jive SBS. The first deliverable under the new strategy is the SharePoint Connector which integrates Jive SBS with Microsoft SharePoint. This enables Jive customers to do the bulk of their work in the highly intuitive Jive environment for networking and collaboration without giving up easy access to SharePoint’s powerful content, workflow and portal capabilities. What we have done is essentially taken a mission-critical enterprise application and "socialized it" to make it consistent with the way humans work best.
Communities are built around human interaction, and organizations who build communities both inside and outside their firewall and bridge those together will literally transform the way they serve customers and partners while at the same time unlock expertise and efficiency across their enterprise. Once you’ve taken every part of your business and made it social, you can’t imagine doing it differently. Humans wouldn’t have it any other way.