Position Paper

Energizing and Engaging Employees – Social media as a source of management innovation

The Changing Nature of Work

LEF research is focused on the six closely interrelated domains above. during 2009, we launched the most recent of these, which we have labelled The Changing Nature of Work. in this domain, we will examine the extent to which information technology is changing the way companies are organized, managed and led, as well as it’s overall impact on the culture and dynamics of the firm.

Energizing and Engaging Employees – Social media as a source of management innovation

Figure 1 - This Position Paper launches our latest research domain: The Changing Nature of Work

Figure 1 - This Position Paper launches our latest research domain: The Changing Nature of Work

Whenever we begin work in a new area, we like to start with a position paper that explains the significance of the domain while presenting our initial thinking and research perspective, typically using a highly visual format. We have taken this approach in each of our five other domains – The Consumerization of IT (2004), The Future of the IT Organization (2005), Business/IT Co-evolution (2006), Business/IT Relationship Management (2006) and Business Sustainability (2008)1. once the position paper has been published, our focus shifts to more specific topics, issues, recommendations, frameworks and case studies.

Thus, in this initial The Changing Nature of Work position paper, we will lay out the reasons why new technologies – often based on social media and collective intelligence – will enable management and organizational innovation to become one of the next big it application frontiers. We will illustrate this potential by examining one particular aspect of this innovation – the widely recognized need to improve the level of employee engagement, an area where social media (such as the social networking sites Facebook and Linkedin) and other it-based tools show considerable promise.

As in all of our work, the messages from this research are aimed at our CIO/IT leadership clients, but within this particular domain we think our findings will be equally applicable to CXO-level management, Human Resources and other non-it business executives.

For more on our overall research domain strategy, see our December 2009 research commentary ‘Exploring the Intersection Between Business and IT – The LEF Research Approach’.

Figure 2 - Key messages

  1. Legacy thinking is often a tougher problem than legacy systems
  2. Management structures and practices are often barriers to innovation
  3. Legacy IT often mirrors and bakes-in existing management systems
  4. Employee engagement is not what it could be in most large firms

BUT ...

  1. There are many new tools and concepts that leverage collective intelligence to accelerate strategic, managerial and cultural innovation
  2. Social media are a particularly powerful tool for improving employee participation, engagement and trust
  3. The CIO and central IT should be leaders in envisioning and enabling the management and cultural models their firms will increasingly need
  4. As social media experiments tend to have low costs, firms should have a number of initiatives under way even in recessionary times
  5. It will take time for us to understand what it really means to be a networked organization, but patterns are now emerging

The points above summarize the focus and top-level messages of this paper. We believe that the combination of social media, collective intelligence, and related tools for engaging and energizing employees (and customers) marks a new phase of Enterprise IT evolution, one where the informal connections between people will become a major new source of new value creation. Information technology can now make visible what was once largely invisible – individual employee ideas, messages, perceptions, connections, relationships, feelings, opinions and much more. The result will be both more deeply interconnected organizations, and a powerful new set of management tools and practices to drive greater firm performance and creativity.

Taken together, we expect that social media and collective intelligence will have significant effects on what it means to be a modern, networked organization. As we shall see, the exact nature of these changes is hard to predict. No one really knows what the firm of the future will eventually look like, and how much cultural change will ultimately occur. Legacy systems, structures and thinking will not change easily or quickly. But we believe this expanded set of tools has the potential to shape the next generation of business dynamics, as firms seek to mitigate the recognized downsides of the complex modern firm. Just as the World Wide Web and services such as Google are creating a sense of a truly global brain, so will the collective intelligence of the firm start to resemble a deeply interconnected and evolving entity.

We would like to acknowledge the pioneering work of the Management Innovation Lab (MLab) at London Business School and express thanks to its founders, Professor Gary Hamel and Professor Julian Birkinshaw, for inspiring our work in this area. Two of the paper's authors, Dr. Jules Goddard and Alan Matcham, are Research Fellow and Associate Member respectively of the MLab.

1. Our work within this domain was initially done under the banner of green it.



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