Emergent complexity from social networks

If I was an employee, I’d want to have someone like Ross Mayfield as my boss. He really understands the way that work is changing. I came across this good (but too short) ZD Net interview on Web 2.0 for the enterprise via Jay Cross.

In a panel interview, Ross Mayfield starts by saying that collaborative work tools must be simple to be effective. The real complexity comes out of the emergent social network, not in the software on which it’s based. Over-engineering for complex social (work) environments seems to be counterproductive. Ross also says that automating processes won’t give you any sustainable competitive advantages either, because others will be able to replicate these processes just as well. Where social tools, like wikis, have an impact is in changing the corporate culture. In a more transparent and collaborative work environment, powered by collaborative web-based tools, information hoarding is punished and sharing is rewarded. The workplace changes.

The most memorable line is when Ross shows the disconnect between the new world of work and the old world of education; “These are the people who did their homework on MySpace, and it was called cheating, and then they come to the enterprise and it’s called collaboration”.

The times they are a changin’

Here are Ross Mayfield’s own words, following up from the ZD Net “sound bite”:

Blogs and Wikis are inherently more transparent than email, where 90% of collaboration occurs.  Users are first gaining exposure to these tools as consumers, within consumer culture.  The default in that culture with these tools is transparency and sharing.  Corporate cultures vary. I can say that we see earlier adoption by corporations with healthy cultures and management practices such as 360 degree reviews, and adoption practices matter.  But it should be noted that consumer culture spills over to corporate culture.  And because this culture shift aids practice building, I’d assert that these tools will trend us towards transparency.

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