“Innovations,” says Keith Patrick who, together with long-term collaborator Fefie Dotsika, devised Westminster Business School’s new Social Media for Business Innovation workshop, “often evolve from small ideas that develop as they’re shared around with people. So, innovation is very much about joining different people together with different skills, different abilities and getting them to share ideas.”
Collaboration leads to innovation
Even where the drive to innovate is not the key motivator, Keith says, innovation often comes from using social media for internal communications. People working in different departments and disciplines who share their knowledge and perspectives to “derive a common understanding of an issue, start to appreciate that they’ve got different parts of a jigsaw, and that if they put it together will enable them to come up with something that’s new or unique.”
And, as the “growth in knowledge work and knowledge workers” continues, organisations and the people within them require “not only the ability to find and access information and knowledge, but also the ability to share this synchronously and asynchronously in terms of both time and location.” (Keith Patrick and Fefie Dotsika, 2007, Knowledge sharing: developing from within, The Learning Organization, Vol 14 Iss 5 p396)
Combining people and technology to boost collaboration
Much of Keith and Fefie’s research over the past decade has focused on the practical steps organisations can take to use emergent technologies to improve this. As Keith explains, they aim to “identify frameworks that organisations can use to guide them depending on where they are in their lifecycle of development using social media and other technologies”.
Their work helps businesses
- ask the right questions
- understand the different approaches and strategies they can adopt
- explore the best platforms and technologies to bring together at a particular time.
This can be challenging. “We are constantly reminded”, Keith and Fefie write, “that it is the employees who are the most important asset in any organisation.” (ibid p395)
Knowledge Management, social media and SMEs
So, how can organisations – particularly small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) with limited time and resources – enable their people to share knowledge?
How can they ensure that, when individuals with particular expertise move on to new roles elsewhere, all the knowledge and information they’ve built up in their job isn’t lost to the organisation?
Especially when so many companies have introduced knowledge management systems, intranets and forums, only for them to remain under or, even, un-used.
Always involve users
The solutions Keith and Fefie suggest – and which underpin the Social Media for Business Innovation workshop – involve encouraging “knowledge sharing through the development of systems from within.”
Organisations should involve users in the selection, development and implementation process. This makes it more likely that people will use the system for an organisation’s benefit “while the involvement itself generates engagement and empowerment, so that ownership should follow. This approach adopts the blending of the social and the technical that is inherent in the emerging developments of Social Software, the coalescing of Web 2.0, and the Semantic Web.” (ibid p396)
Emergent technologies and people challenges
Although many of the “people” challenges inherent in designing, implementing and embedding systems for collaboration still remain, almost a decade on from the publication of “Knowledge sharing: developing from within”, it is, at least, easier and cheaper for organisations to identify and implement appropriate social media platforms for knowledge sharing and collaboration. “A lot of the technology is not new,” Keith says. “It’s just that the infrastructure – our networks, our skills, our knowledge, our hardware, for example – needed to evolve to take advantage of it.”
Fefie’s 2012 White Paper The next generation of the Web: an organisational perspective tracks some of the technological developments from Web 1.0’s simple “hypertext linkage” through Web 2.0 – “a user-centric web environment where information modelling is based on non-standardised user-generated folksonomies and innovation originates in social interaction” and into Web 3.0, which marries the social paradigm of Web 2.0 with “the Semantic Web … a machine-centric framework of web standards, semantic-driven, built top-down with formal classification schemes and highly searchable content.” (p4)
At the moment, Fefie is, she says, working on “social media network analysis applied to keywords. I’m also interested in augmenting web technology, so if anything comes in, I usually want to know about it and do something with it. And I’ve done quite a lot of research in web information modelling relating to the Semantic Web.”
Social Media for Business Innovation
Keith and Fefie’s deep and extensive research into internal communication, collaboration and process innovation uncovered both the need for, and the effects and benefits of using social media internally, as well as for sales and marketing, public relations and customer service.
Westminster Business School’s new Social Media for Business Innovation workshop – which runs for three evenings over three consecutive weeks – will equip participants to start reaping the extensive benefits.
Watch Keith & Fefie speaking about Social Media for Business Innovation
Read research by Keith Patrick & Dr Fefie Dotsika
The next generation of the Web: an organisational perspective by Dr Fefie Dotsika
Knowledge sharing: developing from within by Keith Patrick Fefie Dotsika in The Learning Organization
Implementing a social intranet in a professional services environment through Web 2.0 technologies by Shimrit Hamadani Janes, Keith Patrick and Fefie Dotsika in The Learning Organization
Collaborative KM for SMEs: a framework evaluation study by Keith Patrick and Fefie Dotsika in Information Technology and People