Happy New Year! I read an email today stating that 2014 would be the year for "social explosion". I like that concept, but wanted a better term for this.
Being the creative type, I decided to create 10 new words to describe a "social explosion". Below, are these new terms.
“collabexplosion” the explosion of collaboration tools and processes
“collaflagration” like a wildfire, social collaboration tools spread across an enterprise
“collabcipation” collaborative tools free us from the shackles of antiquated tools and processes
“socialenisis” social tools create a new journey for a company
“socialarity” people and social tools merge into a balanced unified blend
“collabniscient” social collaboration tools enable immediate access and sharing of pertinent knowledge
“socialeration” social tools accelerate our ability to accomplish
“collavolution” collaborative tools enable a work revolution
“sociadilation” social tools reduce task time
“sociasisyphus” social tools move an organization closer to the top
Hopefully, this will start a fun meme for others to join in. Let me see how creative you can be.
Have you ever seen the film, “Let me in”? A “perma-teen” vampire girl befriends a young social misfit boy. Both are outsiders – he is the target male teen bullying; she is the result of malevolence and circumstance. While the young boy is not accepted by the peer group, the young vampire girl finds him a much needed companion. Not a “dinner” friend, but someone close to her maturity level she can talk to. As the ultimate “outsider”, she fears closeness with any mortal. Slowly, she changes this opinion while observing and interacting with him. Risking all, she wants to be “let in”. Not surprisingly, he is fearful and she must win him over. After she demonstrates her absolute trust in him, he eventually relents. With mutual trust established, the two become life-long companions. Well, a bit gruesome companions and she certainly will live longer than him, but life-long nonetheless.
Have you been told the Barbie doll back story? In the 1950s, a toy company executive wife observed her daughter playing with paper dolls. She noticed the daughter role playing adult situations with these paper dolls. “Wife makes husband breakfast.” “Wife warmly greets husband upon his return home from work.” Remember, this was the 1950s! Watching these scenes, the mother wondered if the daughter might enjoy playing with dolls modeled after adults. At the time, all dolls were modeled after infants. Again, being the 1950s, all little girls were assumed to be aspiring mothers so only baby dolls were made.
The wife approached her toy company executive husband with the idea. Not surprisingly, he rejected this idea. After all, she was not a toy executive. She was outside her expertise with such an idea. Later, during a vacation in Germany, the woman noticed an 8” female adult doll in a couple gift shops. Being a tourist in Germany, she did not know these gift shops were selling the dolls for reasons unknown to her. She only saw the doll as the 3 dimensional model she thought suitable for her daughter. As an outsider, she saw the doll with very different eyes and attitude compared to the local doll purchasers.
Returning stateside, the mother again pressed the husband with her concept. Armed with the doll, she demonstrated her theory was correct. Little girls did want to play with adult dolls. This time, the toy executives observed young girls using the adult dolls in the role playing originally observed by the outsider mother. Convinced, the Mattel company launched the iconic Barbie doll. Mattel’s insider expertise never saw what the outsider mother discovered for them.
Why are these two very disparate stories important for social collaboration? We should not fear “outsiders”. We should embrace them for a variety of reasons. The “outsiders” can often possess insights and expertise never imagined by those “inside”. “Outsiders” also may provide us support we would not get elsewhere. More importantly, research indicates more effective teams are created from a mix of people with previous experience together and others from outside the familiar work groups. A great example is research by Brian Uzzi demonstrating successful Broadway productions are a blend of “insiders” and “outsiders”.
Uzzi’s researched thousands of Broadway musicals to observe the collaborative teams behind each production. He found a “Q” score existed. The “Q” score indicated how often a team of people had worked before on other productions. If a production was made from several people who had no previous collaboration, there was a low “Q” score. A high “Q” score meant the collaborative team had often worked together on previous productions. Low “Q” teams were effectively all outsiders. High “Q” teams were all insiders. Based upon box office receipts, awards and highly positive reviews, Uzzi judged that the most successful teams were medium “Q” score teams. These teams were an equal mix of people new to a team and others with previous collaborative experience. Too many outsiders or too many insiders were a bad mix for Broadway success.
A social collaboration community can be very similar to the Broadway production example. If everyone in the community has the same ideas and experiences, the “high Q” community is unlikely to be vibrant. Allow a few “outsiders” to join and we have a lower “Q” with maybe more, different conversations. There may be more disagreement. All of which can lead to alternate ideas and solutions never considered. Inviting the “outsider” in is essential for an effective social collaboration community. Don’t be afraid to “Let them in”. Let’s all celebrate our “VAMPIRE BARBIE”
In fact, Ryan Rutan how about creating some of those hash tag stickers you like to pass out. Hopefully, at JW, you can get people to wear the soon to be much desired.
Do we really need another “thought piece” about the power of community? Really, after “Nice ties”, “spinning greased grooves” and “Bee-lieving”, can a person "creatively" write more about community benefits? I suppose putting this to a vote within the community could answer the question. However, as I have discovered more about the science behind a community, more analogies pop into my brain. Keeping these thoughts inside my brain is difficult. Either my brain is too small or has too many thoughts – likely both. So, just in case someone needs a new analogy to explain community, here we go!
After reading the awesome Bell Lab research supplied by Jem Janik it occurs to me that “questions” can be viewed as an individual entity seeking a “match”. Much like a proton and electrons attract each other due to positive and negative charges, similarly, an interesting question will attract an answer. From a community perspective, we want an environment conducive to these pairings.
Remember, “Bill Nye, Science Guy”? His television show demonstrated and explained scientific principals using common, everyday objects. His theme; knowledge can be found everywhere. All it takes is an inquisitive mind open for discovery. With a little imagination, you could consider good old Bill was a community manager. His daily goal was imparting knowledge and sharing experiences with his “community”. As community managers, we provide a place where seekers find knowledge.
In order to provide answers to questions; a place where knowledge can be found and shared, we need tools to create this environment. To illustrate, channel your inner Bill Nye as we call upon science. At its essence, knowledge is change. You start with one information element; add another element - voilà – a new understanding or experience is created. In nature, to create something “new”, there must be a chemical reaction. This is a process leading to the transformation of one set of chemical substances (reactants) to another. Two or more “reactants” are chemically combined creating properties different than the two original “reactants”. To form the new chemical bond, each reactant bond must be broken.
For communities to accelerate knowledge, we need a plethora of chemical reactions (questions bonding with answers). Facilitating these “chemical reactions” is the role of a community, especially the tool enabling the community. “Collision theory” provides a useful analogy for this. “Collision theory” states only a certain percentage of particle collisions result in bond breakage to form new bonds. In community terms, not all questions are paired with an answer. Or, not all members find the information sought.
To help facilitate successful collisions, a catalyst can be introduced. “When a catalyst is involved in the collision between the reactant molecules, less energy is required for the chemical change to take place, and hence more collisions have sufficient energy for reaction to occur. The reaction rate therefore increases.” It’s important to note chemical reactions require innumerable collisions to form a new substance.
In knowledge terms, a “catalyst” increases our successful collisions and reaction rates. Guess what the “catalyst” can be considered? Yep - the systems and people enabling the community. So, to create more collisions (questions/answers), creating more and faster change (knowledge), we need tools like Jive and skilled community mangers. We can all be "Bill Nye, Science guy".
The end result from these collisions and chemical reactions, a new substance has been created. At its essence, a community is a new entity previously existing as un-tethered, unconnected knowledge seekers and knowledge sharers. The community is the result of collisions between questions, answers and thoughts coalescing into a new substance; a new “body of knowledge”.
By the way, when reactants are combined, creating a new substance, the new substance weighs less than the sum of each reactant individually weighed. This is called “mass deficit”. Assuming, knowledge is a new substance and questions are replaced with knowledge, theoretically, the more knowledge you acquire, the less your “mind” can weigh. Possibly, with so much knowledge, your mind could wind up “in the clouds”. So, if someone tells you, “your head is in the clouds”, that is a very nice compliment!
I believe the community collaboration approach can be compared with a bee hive. Driving all hive activity is the egg bearer “queen”. Her presence ensures hive continuity as long as she can produce eggs. For survival, the bee hive inhabitants must funnel nectar into the hive while defending against external dangers. To ensure a thriving hive, eggs and young bees must be nurtured by all hive inhabitants. All of this activity is centralized within the hive. Newsworthy activity far from the hive returns to the hive for dissemination among the hive inhabitants via the well documented “bee dance” communication form.
While a collaborative community is not a life and death proposition, there are several similar traits to the hive. At the center of a community is a “purpose”. The community “raison d’etre” is represented by this community “queen like” analogy. An effective community is governed and driven by this purpose. Like a queen bee, the purpose directs all community activity. The purpose inherently creates “eggs” or information needs. Feeding these eggs/information needs is content produced by the community membership. These contributors travel on excursions into various corporate “flower fields”, returning with content/ideas/actions nurturing the community. While inside the community hive, the contributors also may perform “bee dance” communications sharing information among their fellow contributors.
In nature, evidence of a hive’s vitality is visible by the growth of honeycomb. A thriving hive contains an energetic, egg producing queen. Increased egg production generates increased honeycomb requirements, necessitating incremental nectar gathering. More eggs hatching produces more nectar gatherers and honeycomb makers. The hive thrives synchronous with the queen.
Community vitality is evidenced by metrics aligned with the purpose. Each community has a different purpose and metric criteria. A common metric is community adoption. A strong purpose offers an enticing community. This enticement attracts more contributors. More contributors create more content. Increased content sustains eggs/information requirements. This information is stored and nurtured within the community. Within a corporation, information is knowledge and knowledge can generate a competitive advantage. Contributing to this advantage, an effective community creates increased honeycomb/knowledge, in a centralized, easily accessible form.
If you ever need an easy to remember analogy describing community collaboration, I hope this serves that purpose.