Enterprise 2.0: Power To The People - InformationWeek
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Cora Nucci
Cora Nucci

Enterprise 2.0: Power To The People

Corporations have a way of dragging their feet when disruptive technologies promise to goose -- or threaten to halt, depending on where you sit -- productivity.

Corporations have a way of dragging their feet when disruptive technologies promise to goose -- or threaten to halt, depending on where you sit -- productivity.The telephone, e-mail, IM, the Web -- that nefarious series of tubes -- each was seen as a deadly productivity killer by managers who feared valuable work hours would be wasted on celebrity gossip, sports trivia, and porn. We know that through the miracle of multitasking, that argument is moot.

Now the next disruptive technology is upon us: Enterprise 2.0. And it is revolutionary enough that along with the inevitable groaning about dips in widget deliverables, there is a rising murmur about how companies should measure employee productivity. That's because social networking tools promise to profoundly affect how work is done.

Self-proclaimed "Webthropologist" Stowe Boyd tackled this issue in his presentation at the Enterprise 2.0 Conference in Boston Tuesday.

Where there are now hierarchies, i.e., traditional org charts, there will be networks of workers collaborating on ideas and tasks, he explained. Social networking will push "centroid" attitudes like authoritarianism to the side, where they will be replaced by "edgling" attitudes, like egalitarianism.

Individuals, Boyd continued, will adopt multiple roles as they move from project to project, and they'll juggle more projects simultaneously than ever before. Time feels compressed. When was the last time you had so little to do that you watched the clock and counted the hours until you could leave work?

We speed through our days. We've all experienced being asked by a colleague to contribute to a project. This will happen more and more as social networking tools take hold throughout the workplace. "We accept a decrease in personal productivity to help others in our network," explains Boyd.

But how will all this collaborative productivity be measured, and just as important: how will these measurements translate to compensation? Boyd thinks we will come to measure corporate and personal success in socially networked work environments "by respect and reputation rather than wealth."

I would argue that respect and reputation are already at play (office politics, industry awards, watercooler gossip, etc.). Throw in the effect of comments on Facebook and LinkedIn, and what a Google search can cough up, and you begin to see the awesome power of social networking.

All those things factor into compensation. So here's my theory: Since one of the benefits of social networking is speed, time will take on greater significance and will come to be used both as a unit by which success is measured and as a currency with which success is compensated.

We will see tasks and projects completed more quickly than ever thought possible, because of the agility of social networking tools. And because time is more valuable than money to many of us, we will see corporations willing to give us back hours, days, and weeks, be it time to pursue pet projects, or simply time off to dip into other networks and return enriched.

Who's with me on this one?

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