Model 1. The technology, for example in the form of digital platforms such as Enterprise Social Networks, ESN (Yammer type) speeds some interactions, facilitates communication, provides a key vehicle for collective framing and shared common understanding (usually from the top of the organization), creates some spontaneous or engineered groups of ‘common interest’ but, above all, provides a single common brochure/repository/news feed for the company (traditional intranet for example). In this model, ‘Digital’ does not change much the nature of the (cross) collaboration, or the fundamental activity of the company and its groupings.
Model 2. The technology serves to connect otherwise unconnected, or poorly connected, groups, and, as such, creates new reasons for shared understanding and collective action. It creates proximity, otherwise perhaps in doubt, and an ability to share ideas, answer questions, help other groups (occasionally or more formally). In this model, ‘Digital’ is network building in its own merits and the real origin of (new) cross collaboration, for example, otherwise not planned or anticipated. It does not change much the nature of work in the networks or clusters connected, but changes their relationships and their learning opportunity, and also creates a possible, more cohesive shared sense of belonging.
Model 3. Technology is on purpose ‘crowd-enabler’. ‘Digital’ allows and prompts everybody to possibly talk to anybody across borders and structures. It allows for example to launch ‘global challenges’ and incentivized, or not, semi-permanent Q&A sessions. In this model, ‘Digital’ is focused on the individual, not the clusters, networks or teams (which had no much control over it). ‘Digital’ here changes the nature of the cross-collaboration in the form of a permanent (if desired) ‘digital-face-to-face’. ‘Digital’ here is very much ‘core’, sitting above everything else, perhaps ‘the way we also work’.
These three models are useful to at least reflect upon what we may expect from ‘the adoption of an internal digital strategy’. Very often, a significant investment is made to install a global ESN, just to be followed by an also significant disappointment about its use and effectiveness. Technology is still today ‘installed’ in a way that seems to expect a following miracle in cross-collaboration or even (more naively) a fundamental change of ‘the nature of work’.
At the core if these issues are three things
(1) The knowledge of what the technology can do (easy);
(2) The agreement on why the technology has been ‘installed’ (difficult: some may think it should be a sophisticated brochure, others a communication system, others an internal reproduction of a cosy Facebook; Nothing of these are the same. Stop in the ‘why’ before you look for the miracle)
(3) The pre-existing behavioural DNA (or the created one, e.g. via Viral Change™ ) required to use the technology in a way that serves the declared purpose, the why in (2); this a more difficult one.
For example in a very tribal, silo-like, fragmented enterprise, a model 3 type of crowd-enabled collaboration may completely fail; model 2 may have some effects, and model 1 may have no trouble, even if with very modest, if at all, effects on cross collaboration with perhaps little changes in the ‘ways of work’
I have adapted for the organization these 3 models from the ones proposed at macro-level by Bennet & Segerberg in ‘The Logic of Connective Action; digital media and the personalization of contentious politics’ (2013). Model 1 is the equivalent of what the authors called ‘Organizational brokered collective action’; model (2) is ‘Organizational enabled connective action’, and model (3) is Crowed-enabled connective action.
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