Envisioning and shaping the future of work and business.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

This week in links - week 1, 2009

Time now for the first set of links in 2009 - some really good ones too. I hope you find satisfaction in reading them.

"Deconstructing the Paradoxes of Virtual Team Leadership" by Betsy Carroll
Dube and Robey found, through extensive interviews with virtual team leaders and members, that there are 5 pervasive paradoxes of virtual teamwork. They also crafted solutions to help team leaders deal with these paradoxes. Here is a list.

"Six Myths of Networks" by Patti Anklam:
Rob Cross, before the social network frenzy, identified six myths of informal networks. Coauthors Nitin Nohria and Andrew Parker worked with Rob to refine our understanding of how to counteract these myths in a Sloan Management Review article in 2002.

Myths and counter-arguments:

To build better networks, we have to communicate more. Actually, what we need is a lower quantity of information, and more targeted, filtered information to the people who need it.

Everyone should be connected to everyone else. What a jumble the world would be if we tried to be connected with everyone. Consider how much difficulty we have now trying to keep up with our extending networks in FB, Twitter, and so on.

We can’t do much to aid informal networks. I wrote an entire book on ways that networks can be supported and sustained. Informal networks need management to give them an environment in which connection and collaboration are fluid, valued, enabled with appropriate tools.

How people fit in to networks is all a matter of personality (which can’t be changed). When we talk about successful personal networks, we are not talking about extroverts who excel at “networking events,” but serious professionals who deliberate and carefully create and manage relationships

Central people who have become bottlenecks should make themselves more accessible. Accessible to more people? How does that remove a bottleneck? How about a central person works at brokering introductions to move knowledge around the network and shifts responsibilities by delegating certain knowledge areas to others?

I already know what is going on in my network. Social/organizational network analysis practitioners know full well that a map of an organizational network always contains surprises. Sure, savvy executives may have some insights, but will always welcome the detailed analysis that includes metrics that lead to action.

"Are we really collaborating?" by Penny Edwards:
In his article "Collaboration vs C-Three (Cooperation, Coordination, and Communication)", Leo Denise (1999) distinguished between those terms as follows (and to which I have added a few thoughts):
  • 'Communication' refers to how people understand each other and how information (including prospects, rumors, feelings and failures) is transferred
  • 'Coordination' is about efficiency and making sure people know when and how to act
  • 'Cooperation' is a factor in moving in a unified direction, but highest value doesn't derive from group think and continually following established norms. 
  • Whilst the above 'C's tend towards controlling and centralising efforts, 'collaboration' is about creation and is the driver of innovation. It involves bringing people together to achieve a goal which cannot be achieved by applying more effort to the other 'C's. 'Collaboration' thrives on difference, insight and spontaneity, rather than structural harmony. As such, it requires a shared space, time and environment to allow people to devise the solution to meet the goal.
Conventional enterprise technology that accelerated people's productive 10 years ago no longer has the same impact, and in fact is counter-productive for many workers in today's global, information overloaded environment. The classic example here is the systemic overuse of email as the means to facilitate each of the 'C's. Whilst email doesn't necessarily need to be replaced, it does need to be put in its place. And with the range of social tools presently available, companies' competitiveness will depend on identifying and adopting those tools which best suit their work processes. In fact, when integrated in a platform, social tools can facilitate new models of interaction, co-creation, collective intelligence, networking and user participation, whilst supplementing traditional face-to-face, telephone and email communications.
"The Implications of the Information Economy" by Rachel Happe:
The information economy has changed the way people behave - particularly in the consumer world:

- More product and service transparency is making it vital for companies to think hard about the quality of both their products and services and ensure that the experience is consistent across the customer lifecycle.

- People can now act immediately on information. This is good and bad - for companies with discrete products, selling things through search advertising has been a huge boast. Independent niche product companies can survive like never before - and customers can find just about anything they need or want. For complex products and services however, customers can make purchases without thinking through the implications of their actions.

The information economy has created a better informed but often impulsive consumer and it has created a networked information effect that ripples quickly through society allowing small pieces of information to set off a disproportionately large reaction - some positive and some negative. Like never before we can also act on information immediately creating economic whiplash.

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