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Advancing social media strategies in organisations, using collective intelligence

Building a research-based, dynamic knowledge repository of social media
strategies

 

Joanne Jacobs.jpgWriting about what she was up to four years ago, Joanne
Jacobs
 
noted
“the impact of social media was so poorly understood that the opportunity to
develop a sophisticated (and academically rigorous) methodology for assessing
social media strategies was too difficult. We are now, however, at a stage
where such a document could be collaboratively produced.”

 

Yes,
we are, or at least, it is my working hypothesis #1 worth verifying. “Social
media strategies” can also serve as an important context for a much needed
action enquiry into how to let practices
worth replicating
(PWR) spread faster and farther.

 

Assessing
the fitness of rapidly evolving strategies on any domain can be a high-value
contribution to the collective intelligence of that domain, particularly, if it
was supported by a “sophisticated (and academically rigorous) methodology,” as
Joanne noted. That’s what inspired me to pick up her statement and see into the
interesting possibilities that it opens. One of them is the enquiry into the
question: how to spread innovative practices
faster and farther, in the domain of growing social media strategies in organisations
?

 

Given
that focusing question and the right methodology (still to develop), that
enquiry could activate and boost the collective intelligence (CI) of the whole
ecosystem of social media strategies. 
Of course, people in strategic management and other professionals whose
work will benefit from the enquiry would have to be involved if it is to
succeed.

Properly
designed, that collaborative enquiry could create significant value to both the
organisations supporting it, and the field of social media strategies, as
whole. Among other things, it could lead to upgrading its current, rather
fragmented and inefficient collective intelligence. As Joanne wrote, “there are
thousands of blog posts, articles and tweets giving advice on social media but
these are not sufficient to form part of a best practice methodology.” We will
know that the field is moving to CI 2.0, when such methodology will be in worldwide
use. Why I think that it is possible?

 

Future-responsive
leaders know that for continually increasing the value of their organisation and
its services to its stakeholders, they need to engage the power of social
media. Yet, not surprisingly, they are puzzled when they face such question as “What
organisational functions would be best supported by what kind of social media
tools?” or “What are the most important trade-offs between buying, building, or
renting the right tools, given our culture and working conditions?”

 

Those
questions and the many others, for which there are no easy answers, call for a
research-based, dynamic knowledge repository of successful innovation practices
relevant to them. That’s the challenge that inspired me to took Joanne Jacob’s publishing
her mini-essay about ‘Best Practice’
and social media
 
for an invitation to think with her. What follows is my contribution to
co-discover the shape and substance of what is needed.

 

 

 “Best practices” or
“practices worth replicating”?

 

First,
a brief explanation of why I use the term “practices worth replicating” rather
than “best practices.” Here are two of the reasons. As soon as “best practices”
became the latest buzzword in the long series US-originated management fads, it
started emptying itself from any useful meaning, given that nowadays, anybody
can promote any agenda by calling it best practice, in the absence of a
reliable assessment methodology. But even when such a methodology is available
in some domain of practice, what can the “best” in a given organisational and
cultural context can be completely irrelevant in another.

 

patterns worth replicating (hands).jpgThe term “practices worth replicating” shares the merit of value creation more
evenly between the creators and replicators of the practice. If it was
successful for the creators, it may or may not be so for the replicators. What’s
worth or not worth to replicate can be decided only by the context of the users
of the knowledge-carrying information, not by its originating context. (It is
so in every case of knowledge value creation and that’s why use value may grow more relevant than exchange value in the knowledge
economy.)

 

Practices
worth replicating can travel as fast
as the time it takes to put together a few-minute video clip and post it on the
company’s Communities portal or on YouTube. The channel and method that one
chooses for enabling replication have to do with how far the practice will travel. Innovative, emergent ideas and
practices can catch the attention of known and unknown colleagues around the
town or around the globe, within minutes. What is missing then from taking the
co-creative, productive capacity of an organisation, an industry, or larger
social systems, to their next, never-imagined level?

 

 

Communities of practice and pattern library

 

What
are missing are the reliable methodologies, tools, and social practices for
collaborative sensing, intuition, and meaning making. Where the missing
ingredients may find each other is the place of communities of practice using a
pattern language for organizing their PWRs. That is my working hypothesis #2
worth verifying by the suggested enquiry.

 

Why
communities of practice are the best poised to assess whether a new practice is
worth recording and documenting for shared reference (by the generating
community), or re-using it in a new context (by the replicating community)? The
answer is two-fold. First: nobody knows better a professional field, and has a
vested interest to make work on that field more efficient and enjoyable, than
its practitioners. Second: to evaluate a complex practice, the evaluator has to
have requisite variety to match the variety of the practice. No separate
individuals, only a community of practitioners can have that.

 

Why
then most community doesn’t live up to its promise and don’t become the
powerhouse for PWR, which it could be in the right conditions? Because they lack
a robust and scalable methodology, a pattern language and tools for absorbing
and taming the complexity of mapping, organising, and portraying their
collections of PWR.

 

A
pattern library is network of patterns structured by a common method of
describing PWRs within a domain of action. A pattern, in this context, is the
record of a practice that has met a specific challenge in a given situation. In
technical terms, it is a record in a database also called as a “pattern
library.” The fields of the record differ from one pattern language to another
but they tend to include some common elements:

 

·      
Pattern
Name:
Choosing a clear and descriptive name helps people find the pattern
and encourages clear communication between team members during design
discussions.

·      
Pattern
Description:
Because short names like “one-window drilldown” are
sometimes not sufficient to describe the pattern, a few additional lines of
explanation (or a canonical screenshot) will help explain how the pattern
works.

·      
Problem
Statement:
Written in user-centered language, this communicates what the
user wants to achieve or what the challenge is to the end-user.

·      
Use When:
“Context of use” is a critical component of the design pattern. This
element helps people understand situations when the design pattern applies (and
when it does not.)

·      
Solution:
The solution should explain “how” to solve the problem, and may
include prescriptive checklists, screenshots, or even short videos
demonstrating the pattern in action.

·      
Rationale:
Providing reasons “why” the pattern works will reinforce the solution,
though time-pressed developers may prefer to ignore this explanation.

·      
Examples:
Each example shows how the pattern has been successfully applied.

·      
Comments:
Including a place for team members to discuss the use of the pattern helps
maintain an active resource and keeps the team engaged.

 

Source: Wikipedia

 

Including
those fields in the structure of the record would provide the benefits we can
get from pattern libraries, e.g.:

 

  • Queries
    can be constructed, where a manager could specify a challenge and a context of
    use, calling up patterns of interest, candidates for re-use.
  • Industry-wide,
    public pattern libraries can grow into an authoritative source of
    industry-specific PWR, reducing reliance on “social media gurus” who sometimes
    give anecdotal evidence and contradictory advice that are not validated by a
    community of practitioners. 

 

Who
will first break those new grounds, leaders and organisations in what field? My
bet is that they will be the most knowledge-intensive ones, where meeting the
high need could generate the most immediate results, namely: energy, finance, healthcare,
information technology, and sustainability.

 

Applying
the power of communities of practice and pattern language to create, spread,
and use practices worth replicating in social media strategies, is a line of
R&D and consulting work that CommunityIntelligence is committed to pursue.
We are open to partner with individuals and organisations interested in the
same.

 

 

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