Some believe that The Wisdom of Crowds doesn’t apply within organisations since the employee population is too small to truly leverage the economies of mass intelligence.
I disagree. Effective markets are not necessarily dependent on scale. Communities of practice or social networks thrive at many sizes — in fact, once they reach 150 people or so they can face some challenges.
BNet ran this great article on crowdsourcing — in real life. Read it.
I caught up on a lot of reading over my long break (not to mention a lot of sleep). I had two main thoughts about employee engagement.
The first is that (and thanks LS for prompting me on this one last time we spoke) the next time you go to see some “guru” talking about social media, ask them this question: “Tell me about the last two projects you implemented for a live client, what the challenge was, how you went about it, and what the results were?”
Because I think they’d faint. There are a number high-profile guys on the speakers/web circuit talking as if they invented social media in internal communications, but by my calculations there is no way they have had time to use social media approaches to deliver anything to any client organisation, so busy has their schedule been talking about using social media to engage people. Talking about it seems a lot easier (and probably more lucrative) than actually doing it. Something about brand basics lurking in that sentence, perhaps?
So: Somebody, ask the question. Answers on a postcard please.
The second thought comes back to a recurring theme – using The Wisdom of Crowds to enhance engagement and decision making internally. I do think 2008 is (finally) the year where some more organisations start to “get it.” These things take time to filter through the collective consciousness, and now that there are enough case studies around to combat the naysayers (Eli Lilly, P&G, IBM, Cambrian House, the Mechanical Turk at Amazon, Virgin Mobile USA, what M80’s been up to). There are more success stories than failures – and the failures tend to be because people generally don’t follow some basic “rules” to allowing group wisdom to flourish (for example, trying to use command and control approaches, allowing inflence among members, etc.).
There is no reason why the crowdsourcing approach cannot be applied internally, particularly in large global organisations. This is where social media can deliver value in engaging employees, in improving business performance and acting smarter and faster. I have set a personal goal of delivering at least 1 and ideally three projects, at any scale, to help clients achieve something using this approach. Watch this space.