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Preview: Collaborative Thinking

Collaborative Thinking



Perceptions on collaboration and social networking by Mike Gotta. The opinions expressed in this blog are my own views and not those of my employer.



Updated: 2012-10-30T12:04:50-04:00

 



Doing What You're Passionate About

2012-10-30T12:04:50-04:00

If you’re lucky, there is some aspect of your professional life that your passionate about – something that sparks your intellectual curiosity, something that compels you to advocate for something or someone – something that actually inspires you. While I’ve...

If you’re lucky, there is some aspect of your professional life that your passionate about – something that sparks your intellectual curiosity, something that compels you to advocate for something or someone – something that actually inspires you.

While I’ve truly enjoyed my last two years working at Cisco, I could never quite shake the sense that my passion, as described here, was best found by being in an inter-disciplinary role that combined different types of research (related to media, technology, sociology, etc.) with the ability to objectively apply that insight to help customers reach their goals, and share those learnings with the broader community at-large interested in those issues.

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To that end, on November 5th, I’m happy and excited to announce that I’ll be returning to Gartner, joining Sue Landry’s team, focusing on topics related to social software and collaboration.  

The journey continues…

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Can Ethnography Save Enterprise Social Networking

2012-09-20T12:13:37-04:00

To read the full article: Can Ethnography Save Enterprise Social Networking (guest blog post on Ethnography Matters) Editor’s note: Enterprise software systems. Sounds a bit boring and inhuman. But they’re not! This month, Mike Gotta from Cisco Systems, makes the...
To read the full article: Can Ethnography Save Enterprise Social Networking (guest blog post on Ethnography Matters)
Editor’s note: Enterprise software systems. Sounds a bit boring and inhuman. But they’re not! This month, Mike Gotta from Cisco Systems, makes the case for bringing the human back into enterprise software design and development, starting out with enterprise social networking (ESN). Recently,  Cisco’s collaboration blog featured an essay by Mike Gotta, Design Considerations For Enterprise Social Networks.  We asked Mike to guest blog and he wrote a new introduction for Ethnography Matter readers, explaining why ethnographers are needed for ESN development. 
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Design Considerations For Enterprise Social Networks

2012-08-02T12:45:11-04:00

While enterprise social networking has been covered extensively in the media and by IT analyst firms, one of the least discussed aspects of the topic has been the issue of design and the potential impact of design on employee adoption...While enterprise social networking has been covered extensively in the media and by IT analyst firms, one of the least discussed aspects of the topic has been the issue of design and the potential impact of design on employee adoption of such tools and applications.  At the June Enterprise 2.0 Boston conference, I presented a session, “Design Considerations For Enterprise Social Networks: Identity, Graphs, Streams & Social Objects”, in hopes of drawing attention to the issue and to spark conversation around design practices. The session did not focus on any particular user interface (UI) technique or product implementation (e.g., e-mail, community site, social collaboration platform, etc.). Instead, the information was presented at a holistic and inter-disciplinary level, covering a collection of related issues: Affordance-centered design Social theory and design Work and personal value Blended user experience Psychology of adoption Enterprise architecture The list of items whose success or failure in the market can be attributed to good or bad design is long and diverse. We can all point to something in our own personal experience (e.g., cars, fashion, electronics, appliances, online web sites), where design had an impact on our perception, or use, of that product or service. The influence of design permeates our everyday life. Its influence can be so subtle that we may not even be aware of how the purposeful shaping of a product or service experience affects our judgment, or how affordances designed into that experience make certain individual or collective actions possible. However, when we shift the conversation to design of business software, the topic can be treated as an oxymoron. It’s not terribly difficult to prove that the experience we have with consumer software is much preferred to the experience we have using business applications (e.g., CRM, ERP). With enterprise software, we tend to focus design practices on the “known requirements” and functional aspects of how work is performed in process, project, or productivity scenarios. We rarely invest in the time, research, and resources needed to understand the organizational, community, and inter-personnel dynamics that create the cultural context for how the work is done. The result? The industry remains in its early days when it comes to designing social environments that accommodate the myriad subtleties that influence how people network with others beyond the narrow confines of a tool or application. Nonetheless, the industry continues to deploy enterprise social networking tools in hopes that such environments will improve everything from employee productivity and collaboration to business innovation and transformation. And there have been success stories. At the Enterprise 2.0 conference, attendees heard from companies like GE, Nike, and Virgin America shared how they are leveraging an enterprise approach towards social collaboration. Also, speakers in sessions throughout the event frequently identified the need for organizations to invest in change management and adoption practices. While progress has been made in terms of recognizing the benefits of governance, change management, and adoption practices, we need to take the next step and realize that the value employees’ gain from social networking will also be strongly affected by how well an organization: Leverages an inter-disciplinary research methodology to understand the cultural context of its work environment Applies those findings to its design practices (e.g., user experience, process, information, application, media, technology) Connects enterprise social networking efforts to its enterprise architecture (EA) program Creates feedback loops between related [...]



Bridging the Participation Gap – Networks, Learning, and “Play”

2012-08-02T12:40:15-04:00

As much as the industry talks about social business and the need for organizations to become more “people-centric”, our conversations too often focus on the merits of social applications and platforms. While technology plays a critical role in enabling new...As much as the industry talks about social business and the need for organizations to become more “people-centric”, our conversations too often focus on the merits of social applications and platforms. While technology plays a critical role in enabling new ways of working, those new practices should also be complimented by management and community-building strategies that encourage employee participation. Fostering a more participatory culture and work experience that motivates people to contribute beyond the minimum required of the job requires leadership teams to re-think the ways we engage and recognize employees. At the Enterprise 2.0 conference in Boston, I moderated the “Organization Next” workshop that explored different tactics strategists can employ to close the participation gap that occurs when employees disengage from their jobs. Instructors and panelists explored a variety of topics, touching on issues related to motivation, behavior, culture, and the role of technology. The centerpiece of the discussion revolved around the pro’s and con’s of potential solutions such as “gamification”, social networking, and “in-flow of work” learning. Attendees left the workshop with recommendations on how/where to get started, common pitfalls to expect/avoid, and best practices to consider (based on the real-world experiences of instructors and guest panelists). Highlights from two sessions conducted by our instructors included: Josh Greenbaum, Principal, Enterprise Applications Consulting (Instructor) Employee engagement often acts as an entry-point to a discussion on talent. We often try to solve the talent discovery challenge through the application of new tools but we also need to consider the impact of design practices and user experience. “Gamification” initiatives attempt to address this dynamic however many of today’s approaches remain superficial.  We need to think beyond badges and leader boards and tackle the complex aspects of influencing behavior change. An enterprise environment is not the same as a consumer environment. Technology-centric gaming approaches can do more damage than not having any game-like experience at all.  We also need to be wary of too much monitoring of employee interaction. The capture and use of social analytics by management can be perceived as being overly intrusive and a form of employee surveillance.  Julie LeMoine, CEO, 3D ICC (Instructor) There’s a “psychology of engagement” that’s necessary when you’re introducing a new social environment to an existing culture. We need to think about “smart harnessing” – ways to bootstrap interaction by creating social and collaborative scaffolding for others to more easily participate in discussions and activities that you’ve partially constructed. Strategists should think about staging incomplete conversations and seeding people to respond to that dialog. An environment that is already in motion can make it easier for people to jump in.  Gamification, when designed and implemented well, can trigger new thought processes on issues. Finding the right triggers for people to learn while they work requires a fair amount of pre-work but the payoff can be enormous and supplement the other learning practices available to people. Game design issues strategists should consider include: address real problems, require no specialty training, avoid overlap with the real task, limit the effort needed to interact, and elicit participation through good citizenship.  When people enjoy their culture and work experience, learning is not viewed as something separate, as a chore that takes them away from getting their job done. Immersive collaborative experiences[...]



Design Considerations For Enterprise Social Networks: Identity, Graphs, Streams & Social Objects

2012-01-26T12:35:39-05:00

I've submitted a proposal for the Enterprise 2.0 conference in Boston. Feedback appreciated on the session and if it's worthwhile, indicate so with a "thumbs up". Thanks... http://boston2012.e2conf.spigit.com/Page/ViewIdea?ideaid=5069

I've submitted a proposal for the Enterprise 2.0 conference in Boston. Feedback appreciated on the session and if it's worthwhile, indicate so with a "thumbs up". Thanks...

http://boston2012.e2conf.spigit.com/Page/ViewIdea?ideaid=5069


 

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Towards A More Participatory Culture: Enterprise Q&A

2012-01-19T09:42:43-05:00

In October of 2011, AIIM (the Association for Information & Imaging Management, a non-profit research, community and educational association), published a survey-based report that examined social business and Enterprise 2.0 trends. I had the good fortune to hear about the...In October of 2011, AIIM (the Association for Information & Imaging Management, a non-profit research, community and educational association), published a survey-based report that examined social business and Enterprise 2.0 trends. I had the good fortune to hear about the results first-hand when I co-presented with AIIM’s President, John Mancini, on a social networking panel at the Gilbane Conference held in Boston last November. John summarized the work and results of the study. One of the more interesting data points and trending analysis I found intriguing was a growing interest in a class of social application AIIM refers to as “Enterprise Q&A”.  Historically, when people ask what the common application use case scenarios are for E2.0, the most frequently cited examples have been: expertise location, online communities, and ideation (innovation). Why the growing interesting in Q&A applications? Perhaps because it’s a pain point all of us – from front-line worker to senior executive – can relate to in our everyday work experience. All of us can recall situations when we’ve had a question about something and have not been able to find an answer through the information and contacts at our disposal. We ask our colleagues. We send out e-mails. We might try discussion forums, knowledge-base applications, and of course – search engines. However, even if we are fortunate enough to find the content, the information may not be presented in a fashion that addresses our need. Sometimes the “question” is not easily resolved by locating content related to the question. Often, what people are asking for (indirectly) when they pose a question is to have a conversation with someone to “make sense” out of that issue. Connecting co-workers via Enterprise Q&A enables people to reach consensus, collaborate on a response, and co-create a workaround. Beyond “answering the question”, this type of conversation allows participants to contribute personal experiences and share work practices that are not formally documented. Passing along the folklore, the unwritten context around a particular question can be a powerful means for people to learn in a social situation. The insight collectively gained can be more insightful to its participants than simply sending someone off to read a document or wiki. As organizations invest in social collaboration platforms, many of these systems will have, or soon include, an Enterprise Q&A capability. I believe design methods that prioritize the user experience and social interaction, not just Q&A automation, will deliver the best solution in the long run. While it seems to be straightforward (ask a question, get an answer), the cultural and social networking dynamics are nuanced. Those nuances are easily overlooked if solution providers implement Enterprise Q&A from a technological perspective. Below are several questions you might want to ask yourself if you are looking into this topic: Where should the question get published to maximize the change of getting a applicable answer? While industry exuberance for activity streams makes it the likely candidate, is that always the proper mechanism? If activity streams are leveraged, is posting a question into a stream cluttered with lots of other items vying for attention the right approach? Should we visually distinguish a question from other types of activity stream entries? What other filtering options should be considered so that questions receive the proper priority? If posting a question into a stream is not always the best design decision, what other options should be considered? Shoul[...]



Are We In A "Post E2.0 Era"?

2012-01-02T11:01:22-05:00

I just read an interesting report from my ex-colleague Larry Cannel from Gartner ("The Post-2.0 Era: Social in the Context of My Work"). It was recently published under the Burton IT1 Research if you have access. My thoughts - not...I just read an interesting report from my ex-colleague Larry Cannel from Gartner ("The Post-2.0 Era: Social in the Context of My Work"). It was recently published under the Burton IT1 Research if you have access. My thoughts - not directly in response to Larry's report, just in general concerning Enterprise 2.0 (which is what came to mind as I read the document)... Are We In The Post-2.0 Era?  Yes. And No. The term “Enterprise 2.0” (E2.0) has been around since 2006. However, many of the technologies associated with E2.0 have been around longer (e.g., blogs, wikis, RSS) while others emerged post-2006 (e.g., micro-blogging). The most recent definition of E2.0 is on Andrew McAfee’s blog: Enterprise 2.0 is the use of emergent social software platforms within companies, or between companies and their partners or customers. Social software enables people to rendezvous, connect or collaborate through computer-mediated communication and to form online communities. Platforms are digital environments in which contributions and interactions are globally visible and persistent over time. Emergent means that the software is freeform, and that it contains mechanisms to let the patterns and structure inherent in people’s interactions become visible over time. Freeform means that the software is most or all of the following: Optional Free of up-front workflow Egalitarian, or indifferent to formal organizational identities Accepting of many types of data The term has been abused to the point where its definition has been stretched and altered to fit the agenda of vendors, analysts, and media pundits. However, if we are trying to determine whether we are in a Post-E2.0 era, I think it is important to acknowledge definitions and intended meaning from the person who invented to term (Professor McAfee). It should be noted that McAfee I believe also stated that there were parallels his use of the term E2.0 and Web 2.0. Before getting to a Post-E2.0 era it’s also relevant to think about the Pre-E2.0 Era. Before the term E2.0 emerged, the collaboration market was pretty stable from a technology viewpoint. While people used e-mail to collaborate, technically e-mail was considered a messaging tool. Collaboration technologies included discussion forums, web conferencing, and virtual workspaces. Virtual workspaces were the “hot topic”. They aggregated document libraries, discussion forums, team calendars, and some level of task organization, into a cohesive destination – a single place for people to “go to” when they needed to work together. Other technologies such as portals, search, content management, instant messaging and presence tools helped round out the typical collaboration manifest (even though they were not technically collaboration tools per se). There had been earlier inflection points in the timeline of collaboration tools as well. Expertise location grew out of the KM heyday of the late nineties for instance. Still, around 2006, the technology landscape was fairly stable. It should also be noted that the idea of  “contextual collaboration” had also emerged circa 1999. The idea of embedded collaboration services contextually within line of business applications, like virtual workspaces, would help drive adoption, and increase effectiveness of collaboration experiences. Portals represented the best-in-class capability back then to enable contextual collaboration since application and collaboration portlets could be composed into a single, integrated user experience. While there were plenty of technology limitations, it’s important to historically note that today’s siren call to integrate soci[...]



Missing Pieces: The Activity Stream Aggregator

2012-01-01T13:58:08-05:00

Industry discussions on the value of activity streams have been going on for a few years. The concept is pretty straightforward. Social network sites (e.g., Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn in the consumer space as well as many enterprise social software vendors)...Industry discussions on the value of activity streams have been going on for a few years. The concept is pretty straightforward. Social network sites (e.g., Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn in the consumer space as well as many enterprise social software vendors) display a chronological list of human-readable content fragments that describe actions taken by people and applications. For example, in Facebook this capability is referred to as a News Stream. Typically, an activity stream lists status updates from the people in your social graph as well as from applications you have given permission to publish into your stream. That permission might be direct, or indirect (e.g., a “like” gesture results in a subscription subsequent updates). Promised benefits are many. Some industry experts go as far as to claim that activity streams represent a new type of “inbox” that will replace e-mail. Other experts claim that activity streams enable work to be more “observable” enabling a new type of ambient intimacy (being able to safely watch from a distance without being directly involved in that activity). Industry strategists also position activity streams as an important mechanism for extending an individual’s social graph as well as a means people can leverage to mobile their social network connections (e.g., by posting a question into the activity stream). There is also an argument that activity streams represent a new type of “social presence” that extends presence concepts linked to unified communications (e.g., a person’s activity stream gives people a richer mental model of what someone is doing over time that presence indicators and status messages within IM clients). Activity streams are becoming an integral part of any discussion on the enterprise social graph. Mining the data store containing the sum of all activity stream items is being discussed as an opportunity for organizations to discover interesting work patterns. What I’ve listed above is illustrative and not meant to be a finite list of possible benefits. What I’ve tried to point out though is that while there are real and significant affordances enabled by activity streams, there is some risk that as an industry, we are portraying activity streams as a panacea to whatever problem ails you as an organization. It also masks discussion of the key architectural component needed, the activity stream aggregator, which will help make the credible benefits of activity streams a reality. Why do we need to think about an activity stream aggregator? It’s not because of where are today in the industry. Today, every enterprise SNS solution in the market aggregates activity stream items that originate within its own environment. Few, if any (none that I’m aware of), implement a standardized framework for aggregating activity stream events that occur externally (proprietary API’s don’t count). This is where the industry is heading. To succeed, there is a need for a common collection of mechanisms that enable a standardized means of aggregating activities that occur outside a particular SNS. This gap is actually what ignited work to define an industry standard (originating in the consumer space) called “activitystrea.ms”. What drove interest in standardizing activity streams in the consumer market is linked to FriendFeed (acquired by Facebook in 2009). FriendFeed was a popular aggregator that harvested information from a variety of social sites (music, blogs, photos, status updates, etc) and expressed that information in a common format. Two design and architectural issues created a scaling cha[...]



Abstract: Social Capital (Key Ideas)

2011-12-31T14:51:42-05:00

Field, J. (2008). Social Capital (2nd ed.). Routledge. Abstract John Field is Director of the Division of Academic Innovation and Continuing Education at the University of Stirling. His book, Social Capital, is part of a complimentary collection of essays to...Field, J. (2008). Social Capital (2nd ed.). Routledge.  Abstract John Field is Director of the Division of Academic Innovation and Continuing Education at the University of Stirling. His book, Social Capital, is part of a complimentary collection of essays to the series, Key Sociologists. The author continues to focus on the topic of social capital as it apples to lifelong learning. In this publication, Field adopts a social networking centric view of social capital. The connections people establish through social networks create resources that can be subsequently leveraged (thus the association that this intangible “good” is a type of capital). Field also introduces the role of “agency” and connects the ability to act to social capital.  People will use both formal (institutions and entities of various kinds) and informal structures to mobilize and apply social capital in enabling (positive) and constraining (negative) ways. While social capital is a relatively simply concept, Field concludes that conceptualizations to-date are incomplete, too loose, and even possibly flawed. The lack of theoretical maturity concerning social capital suggests that more empirical investigation needs to be done.  For instance, how participants mobilize their networks to activate their social capital is one topic Field notes. What can be concluded is that social capital is the property of relationships. Also, social capital delivers no value unless its participants possess the agency to leverage it. A more through examination of social capital also enables researchers to gain a better understanding of the “meso level” of social structures that integrates individuals to broader societal-wide structures. Membership in networks is key for social capital to form and evolve. Field frames the work of Bourdieu and Coleman in the context of their respective era and context. Bourdieu examined social capital in an era where elites and social hierarchy were dominant. Coleman’s perspective was influenced by the field of economics and the theory of rational choice / rational action. For Coleman, social capital was driven by an individual’s desire to maximize his or her own self-interests. Social capital was a means for rationalizing how people managed to cooperate (investing in a future reciprocity rather than an immediate gain). It seems that social capital becomes more of a public good and rationalizes collective action, even though individuals are pursuing their own agendas, according to Coleman. Social capital then is more of a by-product of a cooperative pursuit by individuals to further his or her own self-interests. In addition to Bourdieu and Coleman, Field points to the work of Robert Putnam and his influence on raising the visibility of social capital. Putnam’s perspective comes from the political and public policy realm. He is best known for the book, “Bowling Alone”.  Putnam focuses on the decline of social capital in the U.S. and attributes its collapse to the decline in civic and social engagement (note: others in the field argue that Putnam ignores new structures and forms of social capital). For Putnam, “social capital” refers to the collection of networks, norms of reciprocity, and the trust that arises within them which enables its participants to act together more effectively to pursue their shared objectives. Putnam also distinguishes between types of social capital: “bridging” (social capital that brings diverse participants together) and “bonding” (social capital that reinforces solidarity within a homogeneous group). [...]



Abstract: Social Capital: Its Origins and Applications in Modern Sociology

2011-12-29T15:22:41-05:00

Source: Portes, A. (1998). Social Capital: Its Origins and Applications in Modern Sociology. Annual Reviews. Abstract Portes is professor of sociology at Princeton University. His primary focus is on economic sociology with an emphasis on immigration and urbanization. In this...Source: Portes, A. (1998). Social Capital: Its Origins and Applications in Modern Sociology. Annual Reviews. Abstract Portes is professor of sociology at Princeton University. His primary focus is on economic sociology with an emphasis on immigration and urbanization. In this paper, Portes examines the origins of social capital, concentrating mostly on the works of Bourdieu, Loury, and Coleman. Portes concludes that there is a level of enthusiasm for the concept of social capital that is unlikely to subside.  However, while the formation, evolution, and application of social capital is a dynamic with sound research grounding, that grounding is also incomplete. There is a risk that proponents of social capital will over-reach and see it as a remedy for too many of our major social issues. Portes points out that the processes that underpin social capital have been historically examined in other contexts. There is a temptation to “re-label” some of this prior work as “social capital” to modernize presentation of the information. Portes also infers that there is a tendency for us to celebrate its positive value of social capital without critical examination of its negative effects. A more dispassionate assessment of social capital is necessary in the field to better situate its theories and applications. Overall, Portes adopts a positive position on social capital as a phenomenon and consequence of sociability. Portes credits the first modern-day analysis of social capital to Pierre Bourdieu. Portes’ interpretation of Bourdieu’s work credits him with focusing on the benefits that accrue to individuals through their participation in groups with the intent of that sociability to create the resource (i.e., social capital). According to Bourdieu, social capital enables people to gain access to a variety of benefits (economic and cultural – introduction to experts, status, etc). Social capital is fungible and creates unspecific obligations over an unknown time period with no promise of return (that is, there is no guarantee of reciprocity).  My Note: It seems that Portes and/or Bourdieu seem to agree with Burt (in Neighbor Networks) that benefits of social networks are not a given – that affordances of any relation need to be accompanied by a strategy at group and individual levels to be in a position to claim that resource (social capital) down the road. This connects nicely to work done recently by Ellison (Benefit of Facebook Friends) concerning her research on the cultivation of social resources (CSR) and other work that examines “social grooming” as a means of gaining future reciprocity. Portes makes note of Loury’s work but seemingly in passing as a gateway to the work of Coleman (who Coleman acknowledges in addition to Nan Lin and Mark Granovetter). Coleman’s definition is somewhat vague, focusing on social structures and how such structures facilitate actions of its actors as the core elements. With such an umbrella framework, a lot of associated processes can be framed under the social capital label. Portes seems to prefer the more explicit distinctions made by Bourdieu that distinguishes social capital from the resources acquired through it. Portes seems to be advocating that more research is needed to understand the motivations of recipients and donors of social capital. Portes sees a systematic approach as distinguishing between “(a) the possessors of social capital (those making claims); (b) the sources of social capital (those agreeing to these demands); (c) the [...]