Social Media – the Village Approach to Innovation

It’s interesting how social media has subtly made the migration from a peripheral domain for adolescents to share extraneous to a mainstream business tool. Even within the business arena, social media (SM) used to be relegated to a branding or marketing activity rather than the comprehensive resource many now realize it to be. In a recent blog post, Braden Kelly points out, for instance, how innovation can be fueled by social media:

‘What is the role of social media in innovation? (Either inside or outside the organization)’ Social media serves an incredibly important role in innovation. Social media functions as the glue to stick together incomplete knowledge, incomplete ideas, incomplete teams, and incomplete skillsets. Social media is not some mysterious magic box. Ultimately it is a tool that serves to connect people and information.

How can SM be like glue in your organization? Is there a way to use blogs, wikis, and online videos to enhance learning, information sharing, and collaboration within your daily practice? For instance, posting questions for which your team has no answers to elicit knowledge possessed by others can be a very good use of social media. Or, learning a skill foreign to your core team through an online video can be a means to spur growth or learn how to more effectively manage a contractor/consultant. 

(Kelly:) Social media can help ideas grow and thrive that would otherwise wither and die under the boot of the perfectionist in all of us. Do you remember the saying “it takes a village to raise a child”? Well, it takes a village to create an innovation from an idea as well, and social media helps to aggregate and mobilize the people and knowledge necessary to do just that. But, that is social media working in the positive. We must remember that social media tools are just that – tools.

Village innovation – Hillary Clinton should have thought of that! How does the collaboration effect pertain to SM? Quite simply, there is no substitute for building knowledge systems. For non-proprietary information, you and your peers can start an online conversation thread that others build upon and you are able to glean insights non-resident to your group.  When you do wish to protect methods, processes and intellectual property, it is still preferable to find an internal means to capture group best practices, lessons learned, and puzzles to be solved. How could one or more forms of SM enable you to do this better? Kelly suggests that SM tools are seen in a positive light when they do the following:

  1. To make innovative ideas visible and accessible
  2. To allow people to have conversations
  3. To build community
  4. To facilitate information exchange
  5. To enable knowledge sharing
  6. To assist with expert location
  7. To power collaboration on idea evolution
  8. To help people educate themselves
  9. To connect people to others who share their passion
  10. To surface the insights and strategy that people should be building ideas from

The better you become at the above, the stronger your organization’s innovation capability will become, the more engaged your employees will become, and the more ready you will become to engage successfully in open innovation…Please consider the ways in which social media in your organization might be able to strengthen inter-disciplinary cooperation, make the organization itself more adaptable, and how it could help to create an organization with the power to transform more ideas into innovations.

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