I remember how eight years ago I was explaining to one of my clients the benefits of having an online platform that could be easily updated by his sales force, used by both client facing and back office and act also as a sales platform for anyone accessing the internet. It was an innovative idea, custom made but the word “social” had nothing to do with it. Technologies have come a long way and we often hear the word “social” sticked to some other ones such as “knowledge sharing” or “business benefits”. Nowadays, by not reaching the full potential of the existing knowledge sharing system, companies begin to suffer the same effects that the Alzheimer disease has on human brain, as we’ll see shortly.
According to McKinsey’s “Social economy” report, the social technologies today look like this:
- over 1.5 billion networking users globally;
- 80% of online users interact with social networks regularly;
- 70% of companies are using social technologies; 90% of them report business benefits from such technologies;
- knowledge workers spend 28 hours per week writing, searching and collaborating inside the company.
However, their potential is somewhere here:
- between USD 1 billion and USD 1.3 trillion could be unlocked by social technologies in four sectors;
- twice potential value from better enterprise communication and collaboration;
- 20-25% potential improvement in knowledge worker productivity.
During the last few years, I understood that knowledge management comes in fact to maintain the organization’s brain, to keep it active, to develop it so the organization is able to work and innovate. I observed that organizations with dysfunctional knowledge management begin to suffer the same effects that the Alzheimer disease has on human brain: intellectual abilities are lost, even reach inability to think abstractly, the coordination is limited, and they have trouble performing daily activities. Since the evolution is similar to an organization’s brain, I named this disease Knowledgeheimer – click here for details on this concept.
How do we treat these symptoms?
McKinsey’s report shows that two-thirds of this potential value lies in improving collaboration and communication within and across enterprises. The average interaction worker spends an estimated 28% of the work week managing e-mail and nearly 20% looking for internal information or tracking down colleagues who can help with specific tasks. But when companies use social media internally, messages become content; a searchable record of knowledge can reduce, by as much as 35%, the time employees spend searching for company information. Additional value can be realized through faster, more efficient, more effective collaboration, both within and between enterprises.
The amount of value individual companies can capture from social technologies varies widely by industry, as do the sources of value. Companies that have a high proportion of interaction workers can realize tremendous productivity improvements through faster internal communication and smoother collaboration. Companies that depend very heavily on influencing consumers can derive considerable value by interacting with them in social media and by monitoring the conversations to gain a richer perspective on product requirements or brand image – for much less than what traditional research methods would cost.
To reap the full benefit of social technologies, organizations must transform their structures, processes, and cultures: they will need to become more open and non-hierarchical and to create a culture of trust. Ultimately, the power of social technologies hinges on the full and enthusiastic participation of employees who are not afraid to share their thoughts and trust that their contributions will be respected. Creating these conditions will be far more challenging than implementing the technologies themselves.