Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Modelling innovation culture using social media

I have my own unique model of Innovation which helps with obtaining 'buy in' and best of all, it leads to a method of measuring the capacity to innovate which is a much more sensitive measure than waiting for KPIs to change. I had been puzzling for a while about how to model the spread of Innovation and the transfer of knowledge as well as other issues such as communication and trust. Little did I know that I had already considered this without really understanding.

Recently, I attended a talk by Dr Kelly Page of Cardiff University about New Media and Web 2.0. I became particularly excited by some of the concepts and analysis surrounding Social Media such as Twitter, Facebook, Flickr and YouTube.

In an (ideal) Innovation culture there is little or no hierarchy and knowledge flows at varying rates and often 'on demand'. There are groups of interest and depending on technology, trust relationships can also be built. Rather than humans adapting to technology (remember the first mobile phones, the birth of the Internet), technology is now being developed to match and mimic the behaviour of groups of people in a social environment.

Analysis of this behaviour is interesting. Looking at traffic on say Twitter, a group interested in a particular topic will have what looks like random connections. These are not random and are built upon interest, trust and knowledge amongst other things. Within Organisational Development we might say that these connections do not map onto an organisational structure chart but map onto informal advice, trust and communications networks.

So interactions within Social Media look like those in an ideal Innovation culture, and playing with this idea we can adapt our model for a range of situations. But these changes are incremental. We know that introducing certain technologies into society often changes society itself (electricity, telephone, motor car) so will introducing technologies such as Social Media actually lead to changes in society and in particular our businesses?

The answer is most definitely yes. By trying extreme versions of our new model we can safely say that hierarchies will die and that concepts such as vision and values will truly have shared ownership. Ultimately it will make our businesses more profitable as those working in them will be empowered and will all share responsibility for success. Those who cling onto the old hierarchies will find themselves bypassed in advice, trust and communications networks, they will be lonely. Watch this space for new developments (or should I say MySpace?).

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