Resistance Is Futile -- You WILL Be Social

March 28, 2010
I don’t know if any of you are fans of Star Trek, but some of my favorite episodes involved the Borg, a group of hive minded cybernetic organisms that operate collectively and annihilate their enemies by assimilating their technologies and then ...

I don’t know if any of you are fans of Star Trek, but some of my favorite episodes involved the Borg, a group of hive minded cybernetic organisms that operate collectively and annihilate their enemies by assimilating their technologies and then steamrolling them with their galactic might (all while chanting in robotic monotone: “Resistance is futile.”)

Minus the cube-shaped spaceship, the Borg actually make a good metaphor for a trend predicted in a recent Social Computing Journal article based on a Saba study entitled “How Social Computing Will Improve the Enterprise Value Chain." Several themes repeat throughout this article, but what predominates is the idea that new collaboration technologies will facilitate a collective interconnectedness that will revolutionize how the people side of business gets done.

1. Learning connections will transcend learning transactions.

The traditional business model of learning has been one of training seminars, group meetings, and the like, organized and accounted for from the top down with a transactional model. According to the Saba trend report, this model will be replaced by a more organic and less rigid structure that emphasizes connecting workers with expertise in real time, i.e., learning connections. The authors argue that businesses should share everything possible in a grassroots way, especially information, and that this will naturally lead to better decision making and quicker response time.

2. Real-time sharing will transcend formal learning.

Again, traditional learning management programs will have their place, but far more important will be the network that connects the right people together, ensuring that workers have the best tools and knowledge to get the job done.

3. Continuous performance feedback will be the name of the game.

Performance will be evaluated in real time, reflecting the implementation of social networking technology; instead of traditional performance reviews, workers will evaluated on what they have contributed to their connected communities and to what extent their thoughts and ideas have been received and integrated by others. This in turn will lead to improved validation mechanisms and meaningful rewards for contribution.

4. Social influence will map out organizational structure.

Organizational objectives will still be dictated top-down, but the fulfillment of these goals will reflect the organic nature of social networking technology: ideas and solutions will be able to surface from anywhere within an organization regardless of functional and geographic boundaries. And the "informal networks get the job done" reality that's existed for so long behind the scenes will finally be visible -- and usable -- for both knowledge and change management.

5. Learning will be democratized via user-generated content.

Gone will be the polished gloss of high-cost, high-production learning videos; the wave of the future will be low-fi videos available via the web (think and YouTube tutorials).

6. (Like everything else), learning will go mobile.

This is a trend that is already in motion and as the power of mobile platforms continues to increase, “learning, connecting, and exchanging expertise” on the go will develop into an absolutely essential enterprise paradigm for agile, people-centered organizations.

7. Informality will be encouraged and valued.

These days, people communicate and connect via multiple virtual channels (email, IM, intranets, Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, Slideshare, YouTube, blogs and forums form the "21st century water cooler”). The wave of the future will be led by organizations that capitalize on these informal processes (that are already taking place) by envisioning them as critical avenues to information and knowledge-sharing, brainstorming and innovating, networking and mentoring, and social problem solving and continuous improvement.

8. Collective competency will trump individual competency in determining enterprise success.

The ability of an organization to take advantage of opportunities and adapt to new stresses and environments hinges far more on collective competency than individual performance, and this speaks to what social networking is all about: connectivity, communication, cooperation, and to a much larger extent than has been traditionally emphasized, egalitarianism.

So what’s the new business model going to look like? It doesn’t take a genius to see how social networking technology has transformed people’s everyday personal lives. It’s changed how we act, how we interact with others, how we learn, how we manage our time, the kinds of validations and rewards we seek, and from whom.

From an anthropological point of view, social technologies are changing essential cultural elements such as how we develop trust with others, the number and nature of weak and strong ties we have, how we assimilate into groups, and how we make and break relationships (not to mention how we decide which products to purchase) and I often argue that culture hasn't caught up to this new reality.

The Saba study predicts that these new technologies will inspire a business paradigm in which almost everything has been in-formalized and is taking place in real time: problem solving, learning, performance feedback, communication, validation and recognition and rewards. And like the Borg, the companies that thrive will assimilate these new technologies to operate like a hive-mind, adapting, acting and reacting in a manner that’s almost organic in nature.

So you might as well get up to speed now, because -- as anyBorg would tell you -- resistance is futile.

Sponsored Recommendations

Voice your opinion!

To join the conversation, and become an exclusive member of IndustryWeek, create an account today!