In The World in 2012, part of a series of annual publications by The Economist, Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook’s COO, writes about the link between sharing and caring. You share photos of your kids because you’re motivated by the far-away grandparents who like to watch them grow up. You share because they care. Sheryl Sandberg’s argument is that social media flips the cause-and-effect and she outlines how you-care-because-they-share also holds true: compelling stories are brought to your attention allowing you to react and re-share with your social circles.
We like to draw attention to parallels between the world of social media and the application of social technologies in the enterprise. So how does this story fit into that picture? The answer is that it is just as compelling in the corporate world.
The first direction of causality is our traditional enterprise model. You share that project report because the stakeholders care about the project.
Enter the information-rich world of the modern enterprise where sharing is a by-product of work. Almost all events that are detected in systems of record emit a ping that gets channeled to the people who need to react to that event and those who want to know about it because they feel that it helps them make better decisions. By the same token, people pour their observations onto the same message bus, allowing their colleagues a wide choice of information about the business, be it customers, products or projects. Information becomes more valuable than just information; in a subconscious application of what is known as signals processing in the intelligence community, we use the information flows to determine which initiatives merit a closer look and discover people (in other continents, down the hall or in a home office somewhere) whose work impacts ours.
The result is an organization where people are better able to home in on subjects, colleagues and activities to care about. Just as valuable, more efficient means of sharing expands our capacity for caring. In the networked organization, the value from information far exceeds that which can be extracted via the pathways of a top-down hierarchy. That value ultimately benefits everybody.