E L S U A ~ A KM Blog by Luis Suarez

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Culture Clash in Office 2.0 – Provoking the Change through Communities

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Late last week I actually bumped into an interesting news article on Internetnews by Susan Kuchinskas titled Culture Clash in Office 2.0 that certainly grabbed my attention as you may have guessed. In that particular piece of news Susan gets to comment on how most of the social software tools available out there are finding their way very slowly, probably too slow at times, into the corporate world and how these tools in the end are going to provoke a "culture clash". One step at a time.

Over there you would be able see how she quotes Stephen Collins‘ work (From Acidlabs) on Knowledge Worker 2.0, and recently presented at the Office 2.0 conference, making the distinction between bursty and busy workers:

"Bursty workers are not clock-punchers. They are highly creative, connected and innovative. They may be on Facebook or down at the café, but they’re still highly productive. Busy workers, on the other hand, may take a 40-hour week to do the same amount of work a bursty worker does in 30."

And how she is trying to make a connection for a potential conflict between both types of the workforce:

"Nevertheless, the concept of busy work has been established as not a good thing, and few employees would feel good about this characterization. Those "busy-workers" may resent bursty employees and view the copious amounts of time they spend connecting online as wasting time"

which, to me, doesn’t sound realistic at all, specially when she herself puts together the solution to the potential conflict at the end of that very same article. That is right, there may be a potential conflict, I am probably not going to deny it, but the thing is that as soon as one of the key components from the social computing world kicks in that conflict ceases to exist. And like I said, she talks about it. I am referring, of course, to the creation of a Communities program throughout the organisation.

Through those communities you would be able to see how those initial potential conflicts that may come out will eventually iron themselves out, because the sense of belonging and trusting the group, i.e. the community, is going to be far more engaging and overwhelming than just a single conflict. It just won’t show up for long enough.

Pretty much one of the things that Susan mentions over the course of the article is how communities and, specially, their usage of social software, is influencing the way knowledge workers get the job done much more effectively, connecting with those who may have the knowledge and re-sharing the new information back into the community space(s).

Whether businesses would get to build their own community building programmes or not, the interesting thing is that social software is provoking that culture change by which knowledge workers get together in online spaces to share what they know with others, making use of social computing, as opposed to work in an isolated mode, where they realise they are not gaining anything, not even perhaps getting the job done much more efficiently and effectively.

Thus instead of opposing the creation of those different communities, as I am sure some of you may have gotten exposed to, why don’t businesses just go ahead and embrace them? Give them the support, leadership, funds, sponsors, etc. etc. they need in order to get the most out of the community membership itself. For many years it has been proved how empowering belonging to a community really is, to the point where plenty of business have survived thanks to their work behind the scenes. So imagine the potential if, instead of getting all that work done behind those very same scenes, they actually do it out in the open, knowing their efforts are supported, adopting different social software tools they know would help them tremendously and help get the job done as if it were business as usual, and not just another task to get done our of people’s private, and free time.

Wouldn’t that be just great? Not sure about you, but articles like that one of Susan clearly prove the point that we are witnessing exciting and interesting times for communities and their usage of social software, and, specially, how they themselves, without much help, to be honest, are helping provoke that culture change we have all dreamt about for a while. Will you be ready? Will you be supporting within your business a Communities program? I surely hope so, because otherwise you are just missing the boat. Big time.

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1 comment

  1. Hi Luis, I see this more as a clash of cultures in the sense of the organizational structure itself. About managers not understanding the utility of social networking, and computing, and hence, you would hear comments like … THat guy only does KM (assuming communities are part of a KM initiative).

    There are specific issues in specific job roles, though, which need to be taken into consideration … the BPO industry, for example … the metrics are about how many calls the agent takes … it becomes a chicken and egg situation … this wont reduce till agents start networking, and this networking wont be encouraged till this starts reducing. I think this is the conundrum we need to resolve.

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