The New Era of Social Computing

June 20, 1999

DO YOU SPEND TIME spontaneously chatting with coworkers in the hallways, by the coffee machine, or after meetings? How often do you feel that these chats lead to new knowledge, new ideas and new ways of thinking that benefit the way you work? In my case, it’s all the time.

Some employers feel that they could increase profits by eliminating the time employees spend “doing nothing”, such as chatting with co-workers. They couldn’t be more wrong.

The most valuable knowledge resides where we can not clearly see it, at the frontier with the rebels. How else can we get to, learn from and develop this knowledge if not through interaction between those who bear the skills, opinions and impressions.

INSIGHTS, KNOWLEDGE AND IDEAS become more valuable as they are shared across the company. As I chat with a colleague, or team of colleagues, we often go a long way towards coproducing solutions that will benefit our clients or our own way of working, and hence also our company. There is a build-up of positive energy when social interaction and sharing takes place between different competencies. The result is often quite rewarding.

The true brilliance of organizations are the stimulated ways that workers solve real problems in ways that formal processes do not support. The world that we are living in today forces us to rely more on informal ways of performing tasks, as the documented processes are becoming increasingly out-of-date.

MY CHATS WITH COLLEAGUES brings me to insights about my colleagues’ competencies. Instead of using the Net mainly for searching, today I use the Net mainly for networking. The most powerful search engines are real people. A five minute conversation with a real person (either across a table or across a cable) can tell me more than five hours browsing the Internet. Intelligence is all around you on the Internet, and it isn’t artificial.

Having all this in mind makes me think that maybe it’s time to start formalising your chats 🙂 What I mean is, if you can find a forum for your different workgroups, you could maintain a record of the new insights your chats bring about. In this way, you can share your information with more people and magnify the benefits.

People and companies who can utilize and encourage momentous gossip will benefit from new, shared knowledge and the fun spirit of community. Those that don’t will keep walking in circles.

Per Axbom

Per Axbom

@axbom

Per Axbom is a Swedish communication theorist born in Liberia. For two decades he has educated digital professionals and helped organizations with digital usability and accessibility. Per makes tech safe and compassionate through reflective reasoning, human-considerate design, coaching and teaching. You can hear his voice on UX Podcast.

Digital compassion book cover Per's recent handbook on managing ethics in tech, Digital compassion, is available to order from Amazon in Kindle format. Send an e-mail to Per for more options.

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