The study of physics is traditionally split in two branches: the so-called classical mechanics is concerned with the motion of macroscopic objects, while quantum mechanics deals with physical phenomena at a much smaller scale. According to Wikipedia:
Classical physics explains matter and energy at the macroscopic level of the scale familiar to human experience, including the behavior of astronomical bodies. It remains the key to measurement for much of modern science and technology but at the end of the 19th Century scientists discovered phenomena in both the large (macro) and the small (micro) worlds that classical physics could not explain. Coming to terms with these limitations led to the development of quantum mechanics, a major revolution in physics. Quantum mechanics has many implications on the microscopic scale, some of which are obscure and even counter-intuitive.
By the same token, trying to apply the social media concepts of Google’s page rank, Wikipedia’s wisdom of crowds, Facebook’s millions of friends, Twitter’s world pulse and Pinterest’s social curation “as is” to an internal social business platform will come short in delivering results. We need to go back to the drawing board and develop a new set of rules, describing a new collection of patterns and anti-patterns for social media within the enterprise. We need, for the lack of a better analogy, to depart from the “classical” social media and define a brand-new “quantum” social media.
By completely re-inventing the social media framework, internal social business platforms will finally be able to escape the trap of being “Wikipedia for the enterprise”, “Corporate Facebook” and “Twitter for Business” and come up with new collaboration and communication patterns that do not even exist in the Internet. Thus, instead of lamenting that within the firewall you lack the volumes, the diversity and the serendipity of the Internet, focus on the strengths you have:
- Your corporate wiki reference will never be as broad and up-to-date as Wikipedia. You don’t have an army of volunteers to maintain it accurate and neat. Use wikis as a convenient way to create short-lived websites or to collaborate on draft content instead.
- Chances are that the vast majority of your corporate bloggers won’t be as insightful as the folks writing for the New York Times or GigaOM. But corporate blogs can be excellent vehicles to track the progress of a project, provide executive updates, and discuss business news relevant for your organization.
- Enterprise microblogging and status updates tend to not be as timely or frequent as those posted during the Academy Awards ceremony, but they may be very efficient in providing praise for a job well done or to share snippets of knowledge that can those around you more engaged or productive.
- Discussion forums will lack the passion of the RealGM fans and trolls, but can be the vest venue to provide support for business processes and internal applications.
- The videos produced by your colleagues in Asia or South America may not become as viral as Gangnam Style, but you probably can identify yourself with them more than you would do with Psy.
- When you run a poll among your colleagues, you won’t be second guessing whether or not Jeremy Lin is almost as good as Chris Paul, or it’s just a bunch of trolls voting several times and skewing the results.
In other words: you can achieve success with your social intranet, but not by mimicking the Internet social media darlings. Your accomplishments won’t necessarily be measured by the number of followers, tweets per seconds or likes you are getting, but by how much business value you can derive from a more connected and engaged workforce.
About Aaron Kim
Aaron Kim currently heads the Digital Social Collaboration Centre of Excellence at RBC. In the past, he tried his hand as solutions architect, Basel II consultant, performance engineer, Java programmer, Unix administrator, and environmental biologist. He’s married to Tania and they have a son, Lucas.