Over the weekend there has been some great commentary shared over at a weblog post I created on Friday under the title: Social Software in the Enterprise – Tacit vs. Explicit Knowledge and which I will be commenting through in the next few minutes. However, there was one of those comments, which was actually a pingback / trackback, that triggered me to create this particular weblog post as I think it deserves a little bit more of our attention regarding the role of Social Software in communities, specially because of a final question mentioned over there that I feel would be good discussing further a bit more. The actual weblog post is titled Useful Distinctions in Social Software by Dion Hinchcliffe, which was aggregated over here as well.
I am not sure if you have subscribed to Dion’s weblog but just in case you haven’t, it is a weblog very much worth while subscribing to, specially if you are into the so-called Web 2.0 related technologies. In that particular weblog post though he talks about the fact that it would be about time now that we start to understand the “exact underlying reasons why such software (Social Software) is so compelling” if we would want to apply it to the business world and in so doing Dion just asks openingly at the end of his article the following question (By the way, don’t forget to check out the graphic he has shared over there as well because it will certainly help understand a thing or two):
“Do you think network effects will make social software more powerful than any other form of software?“
I thought I would venture into giving my take in trying to help find a good answer to his great question. Yes, I very much think so. I think that network effects will actually shape up the way social software will eventually take over most of whatever other forms of software that may be out there. And the main reason why I think this is going to happen is because of three inherent elements that are all related to those network effects as key components to make it all work out the way it was first envisioned:
- Passion: There is no doubt that passion is, perhaps, one of the key network effects components that will drag more and more people into trying out new social software, specially once it has been proved that it works from a personal perspective and then it is ready to go into the business world. In one of the comments of the actual weblog article above mentioned it is indicated how having a critical mass would become a key successful item to take into account. Yes, I would agree with that as well and one of the best ways to boost and increase that critical mass is just by augmenting the passion some of those folks already have so that it becomes contagious to get busy using that social software. That is what has happened to most of the Web 2.0 offerings that are out there growing really fast at the moment. They are passionate about using that offering and even more they are sharing that passion with others. That would be a key connector to the business world.
- Trust: Perhaps, the other most significant component from every network effect. Indeed, we are all social creatures, but we are social creatures who need to create bonds with those around us in order to benefit from those social connections the most and one of the best ways of doing that is by having enough trust built up across the board and help spread it around as widely as possible. We all know that in every working business environment people would be more willing to share what they know if they have got a sense of trust with those who they are going to collaborate closer. And there is no denying that one of the most powerful options to help build up on the trust skills is by making use of social capital. Indeed, the Social Software again. Examples so relatively simple as using different icebreakers, sharing favourite links, pictures, music, podcasts, etc. etc. are just a few of those capabilities that social software is putting together and which help increase trust in whatever the business environment.
- Involvement: Finally, to make it all work and to make social software more powerful than any other form of software we would need to ensure that people are motivated and involved enough to want to make a difference. To want to come out, stand up and share what they know, because they actually want to do it and not because they may have been told to do so or because they may be getting in return whatever the incentive. Involvement is one other key element that will help people understand that through their passion and trust in each other they can let themselves go and get further involved with the task at hand: share what they know and collaborate with one another.
Perhaps you may be thinking I am talking about the ideal working business environment, but then isn’t it what social software has been doing so far? Providing the ideal background for people to come out to the collaborative web and share what they know, be passionate about it, trust one another through those relationships and get everyone else involved in the process? To me, and I think I may be biased a bit about the whole thing, or just too passionate, who knows, social software would become more powerful than any other form of software, if it hasn’t already done so, and all of that because of these three components I have mentioned above. No other software has put those together to work so effectively as social software has done so far. Only thing we would need to do now though is to convince companies that is what they would want to do to improve the way business is made. And that is something that Knowledge Management would be able to help out with very easily. But that would be the subject for another weblog post.