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Social Media and Organizational Effectiveness

April 15, 2009

People love to be heard, they love to share their successes, their stories and sometimes, even their pain. When we hear a plea for help, most of us will step forward and assist if we can help in any way.

Image representing Twitter as depicted in Crun...
Image via CrunchBase


We are also attuned to be attracted to people who’re like us or who seem interesting to us. Either because they’re like us or because they’re like something we would like to be.

I think it is primarily because of the above 2 reasons that social media has become such a huge success. It has given us all a platform to share, explore, help and be helped, and to learn more than we knew before.

Once upon a time, when I needed information, I bought a book or a periodical. Then came google and Wikipedia, and now there’s Twitter and LinkedIn.

Interestingly enough, when CEOs reach out to me, their primary requests are:

Increase collaboration
Get rid of silos
Improve speed of response/Agility/Flexibility
Information dissemination
Knowledge management

And when I look at what social media has brought to the table, I see an immediate connection.


Image representing LinkedIn as depicted in Cru...
Image via CrunchBase



I have been very active on LinkedIn for a long time now, and am a recent advocate and user of Twitter and an active, though new blogger.

There is a meritocracy/ideocracy that prevails across this socio-sphere. It doesn’t matter if you’re a geek or a greek-God type hunk. Doesn’t matter if you’re young or old or a secretary or a VP. As long as you put up something that resonates with people, that makes sense, they will pay attention. They will contribute. They will listen. They will coalesce around shared issues and pains and desires.

No Silos. No Hierarchy. Immense amount of knowledge and information sharing. No hoarding, no powerplay. Everything that an organization would kill to have! The benefits?

Knowledge sharing & management
Resource sharing
Information dissemination at the speed of light

The utopian principal of company behaviour
Image by fisserman via Flickr

Quick decision making



However, so far most of this impact is restricted to the world outside the organization. I know of no implementation of any of these media in an organization in India. I assume there must be a few such implementations in some organization somewhere. But I haven’t heard of it yet.

Just to imagine the impact of a Twitter implementation in the workplace gives me goosebumps!
• The ability to ask a question and have the entire organization available to you to come up with an answer.
• The ability to post news, to announce progress updates, to request for help.
• The ability to seek referendum of a sort.
• To be able to create a space where victories are shared and others can ask how and learn
• The ability to reach out to the one person who you think can make a difference
• The ability to escalate an idea at the speed of light, get an opinion on it, version it through rapid dialog, discuss, re-discuss, and then propose – All of this along with your stakeholders across geographies and hierarchies!

The Mind boggles!

An implementation of LinkedIn in the workplace.

• A storehouse of the resources at your disposal
• Ability to search across the organization to find the competency/skillset you’re looking for
• Posting questions, getting a variety of answers
• The Q/A pool becomes a kind of storehouse of knowledge across the organization – Available to all who come after or seek similar learning
• Inter-connectedness and networking
• Posting jobs/Responding to vacancies

And as a result, a culture of openness, knowledge sharing, collaboration, meritocracy and ideocracy. What more can you ask?

I am an organization development and change practitioner. So far, most of my work has involved changing mindsets, moving people from their settled states. And helping them setup and adopt processes that are designed to achieve the above.

It is never easy to enable any kind of change, and it has always been a journey of 3-4 years to achieve some of the above objectives.


Change, we fear it....
Image by apesara via Flickr


However, the more I experience Social media, the more I realize that things might be different as we go forward. People are already using these tools, they are already on LinkedIn, Twitter, FaceBook and already realize the benefits that come from using them.

By introducing Social Media into the organization we would be riding the tide, not pushing people against a direction they didn’t want to go, or didn’t understand. We would be harnessing a competence that is already developed. No new training needed. And we’d be unleashing creative energies that would rival what goes on in the social space today, within the microcosm of an organization.

How will this happen?

CEOs, OD, HR folk will have to become active users and consumers of this technology for them to be able to envisage it’s utility across the organization. And then to implement it in the spirit in which it is conceived.

CIOs/CTOs must act as advisers and partners in making it happen or introducing such concepts to non-tech folks.

Organizations could look at pilots within a department or SBU to test-run and lead the initiative to success before taking it organization-wide.

Management colleges need to include this in their curriculum and I don’t mean in their MBA but in their Exec Ed curriculum. How many Premiere B schools today, have the use of Social Media as part of their AMP curriculum?

And, tongue in cheek, but true nonetheless, Tweeters, need to get more non-social media folks on board. Have more dialog/discussion around such subjects. And drive the movement, no one knows the benefits of this technology better!

Is what I am sharing far fetched? Can it really happen? Would it work?

What do you think?


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17 Comments leave one →
  1. December 14, 2009 4:12 am

    I’m doing a catch-up on your blog posts and thoroughly enjoying it.

    I have also been an advocate for large organisations taking on board an in-house LinkedIn Q&A for the purposes of building a knowledge-sharing database and depository of street-smart wisdom and fast opinion gathering. It requires an organisation to trust its people and the people to trust their organisation – opinions need to be capable of being voiced without fear and appreciated and acknowledged with pride. Point-scoring and gamesmanship as bedevils the public LinkedIn would need to be outlawed from the start and self-policing of the self-established rules to be encouraged.

    To be honest, I would also think it could become a good way of an organisation building a Advisory Panel – comprising a blend of internal and external technical experts, advocates, consultants and thought leaders who together create an on-line Think Tank that could be consulted and again recognised and rewarded for the value of its contributions. Internally this would lead to a systems based platform for the type of knowledge-sharing that used to take place in terms of master craftsman – journeyman – apprentice communication and learning pathways; the main difference being that today the roles could be reversed when it comes to older employees learning from younger ones about new technologies and social media driven insights. I well remember my Unilever training in which I was able to learn from a whole host of older more experienced managers and technical experts – in time I became one of those experts and there was a silent touch on the shoulder that said it is now your turn to teach and share learning.

    What is interesting is that I always find teaching to be a two-way learning process in which it is often difficult to distinguish student from professor when the learning process is at its most effective!



  2. July 23, 2009 10:53 pm

    Too far fetched for most Indian organizations.

  3. June 4, 2009 9:14 am

    These could turn out to be excellent for an organisation that genuinely wants to promote an OPEN culture.
    Openness and transparency are great values and are a MUST and have immense value in the long term.

  4. April 16, 2009 7:29 am

    Very well written and great ideas.
    Definitely, we need to get more and more “non-social media” folks onboard social networks like Twitter, LinkedIn, Yammer and blogs. This really has the potential to create a culture around open, transparent communication and collaboration.

    And, as Gautam mentioned, there are organizations like IBM who are at the forefront, exploring ways to make enterprise communication tools and channels more 2.0.

    Infact, my company is working on a enterprise 2.0 consulting offering for developed markets. Will share when I learn more.

    • May 12, 2009 12:37 pm

      Hey Abhishek,

      Can I apply?

    • gurprrietsiingh permalink*
      July 2, 2009 1:57 pm

      Hey Abhishek

      I will soon have an opportunity to implement social media in the workplace…will pick your brains then!

  5. Rod_in_Toronto permalink
    April 16, 2009 3:37 am

    Hold on a second. I am going to play the devils advocate here for a second. (I don’t have answers, just more questions.)

    How is all this different to the introduction of email? Can’t we all now pose a question to everyone in our organization. Through company intranets can’t we already conduct polls, communicate, seek input.
    Are these not working? If not, why don’t they work better and why are we all thinking these new tools will be a cure all?
    A big reality check is that people are overloaded. Imagine a large corporation full of people twittering. when do they have time to work or read and respond to tweats.

    let the conversation continue…

  6. April 15, 2009 8:05 pm

    A very thought-provoking article – thank you! 🙂

    I don’t believe you are being far-fetched at all. Sure, change is a long-term process so it will take time. But there are already moves in that direction in many organisations around the world, some of which other commenters have mentioned.

    I also very much appreciated the points you made under “How will this happen”. It’s very true that community and organisational leaders need to take up the challenge of utilising social media and acting as models and mentors for those they lead.

    And although you said your comment about needing more ‘non-social media types’ on Twitter was tongue in cheek, I think this also is very true.

    I know among the millions of those now tweeting regularly, there are many who are passionate about social, environental and ecomonic change and about taking part in co-creating a better world for all. And as time passes, those of us (and I include myself in this group) who are relatively new to Twitter will continue to find one another, increase our networked connections and engage in conversations and (hopefully) shared action that will help to move us towards this vision. 🙂

    I see social media connections as being rather like Indra’s Net. A global web of interconnected ‘jewels’ of thought, passion and action, each of which reflects all the other jewel-nodes around it. And I believe that, given time, this net of connections can and will effect positive change.

  7. April 15, 2009 6:31 pm

    It should, it can and it will. The benefits of involving the entire organization’s heart & soul are so immense that organizations will embrace it soon or perish. Perhaps there’s a a bit of a lag in India… but it’ll catch up.
    Good article!.

  8. April 15, 2009 5:48 pm

    I truly enjoyed your post and the questions and opportunities that it raises. I am familiar with a number of companies in the U.S. that are encouraging their employees to leverage these tools, and the result is that they are redefining communications and social networks. As one of your respondents highlights, IBM is at the forefront of this, and I believe Cisco and Dell are as well. Interestingly, as the Millennial generation moves into our workforce, they will help accelerate the adoption of these new tools.

    It is interesting to note how many people that I still come across that are cynical about Twitter and LinkedIn. Most of these people are older and view these tools suspiciously or cynically. In some cases, they won’t wake up until their competitors are thumping them in the market based on the use of these tools for marketing, research, brand building, communications and even selling. (Dell recently reported selling $40 million in a short-time vi twitter.)

    I offer some additional thoughts in my recent post about why social media is essential to your career. Thanks for the great post here today! -Art

  9. April 15, 2009 5:08 pm

    Very enjoyable, well-thought-out article with ideas that caused me to think. Yes, there are questions regarding effective implementation but…aren’t there always questions before something is accomplished? 🙂

    Thank you for sharing your knowledge and wisdom.


  10. April 15, 2009 4:51 pm


    The problem is with the assumption that people WANT to talk about organizational stuff. If you and a colleague were to meet say in different country, what would you want to talk about? Your office? Work? In the shadows of the internet people let go of pretences and would rather have cybersex than talk substantive stuff.

    I know many people like to get my informative emails, but very few people actually read it. I know because very few people even click on the links in the emails. So now we have come a full circle from the old command driven to the request driven culture. You know how hard it is to get people to read your blog. When you send me something, I do read it but not always respond!

    If a ceo out his twitter page, how many people would honestly respond without anonymity? If there is anonymity, why do you think people would even read his blog or tweet? The information ecology is a lot more complex. When wifi-laptops are allowed in classrooms, how many do you think use them to check email and chat while the lecture is on? Can a teacher survive without forcing students to pay attention? Can a CEO achieve without a similar pressure?

  11. April 15, 2009 10:19 am

    Actually tools like Yammer and internal microblogging and blogging tools are being used by a wide variety of organizations. IBM has been in the forefront.

    It’s being called Enterprise 2.0 – tonnes of blogs abound on that subject alone… Check FastForward blog on that 🙂


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