The enterprise is social, as we have heard from a number of writers, such as Etienne Wenger on communities or John Seely Brown on The Social Life of Information. Jon Udell of InfoWorld follows this with an article on The social enterprise that discusses how some of the newer "social" technologies are playing into this world.
Udell brings in comments from people in a variety of industries, and he touches on a number of topics, including transparency / privacy, six-degrees within enterprises, activity monitoring, group forming. But the topic that peaks my interest is the discussion of group memory and context forming. "Whatever the mode of communication, the primary goal, Hertz [Ofoto]says, is to create group memory."
Building group memory and team awareness has always been the goal of KM (knowledge management), of course. "But most people," Nuzum [Traction Software] says, "have never had the benefit of mechanized institutional memory." One reason for this limitation is that KM systems have tended to ask people to dump knowledge into databases without regard for social incentives, habits, or consequences. These are central concerns for social software in all its various forms.
Imagine being able to track back through corporate archives and "see" how new ideas and concepts have developed through the interactions of the people in the enterprise. Track through the electronic laboratory notebooks of your scientists to see where they have played off each other to build the latest discoveries. Find your current experts on a topic that was of interest to the company ten years ago.
This also relates to some issues that Shannon Clark and I have been discussing in relation to my recent post on information overload and the legal issues associated with archival of these conversations. Shannon argues that with full context, apparently-damning messages would lose some of their power.
A number of others have commented on this as well.
Ross Mayfield talks about it from the perspective of SocialText as well as highlighting the importance of providing context to conversations and discussion.
Judith Meskill wraps up her comments with an excellent set of additional questions:
Will enterprises keep and cultivate more 'knowledge workers' with the adoption of these tools and practices? Will these collaboration enhancing vehicles -- incorporating trust, technology, and privacy -- help ease the transition from the last thrashing vestiges of an Industrial Age into a viable Virtual Age?
Plus another bunch of Technorati references.
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