Social networks at work: Cartel, Competition or Collaboration?
Within the UN system (or any large organization or enterprise for that matter) there are often several competing platforms, tools and methods for knowledge sharing, internal communication and work related social networking.
There’s the official tools (such as Teamworks in UNDP, UNICEF communities in UNICEF, or “unite connect” in the UN Secretariat, or various Sharepoint implementations). There’s the unofficial tools that people have set up such as Yammer, Ning Networks, Google groups etc. And then there’s the use of public tools such as facebook, twitter and Google plus as well as individual websites and blogs.
Having so many options can be confusing and lead to knowledge fragmentation – but getting leadership to agree on a single tool can also be very contentious and getting people to follow official direction can be challenging, especially when people have different preferences for how they network in terms of tools, functionality and the crowd of people they want to exchange with.
Here are three possible approaches for dealing with this:
Cartel: Management agrees on a common set of tools and makes it clear to all users that they MUST use these tools and no others, and that only officially sanctioned tools will be supported.
Competition: Management makes available a set of corporately supported tools, but doesn’t impose them outright. Instead they actively work to convince people to use the official tools by convincing them how much more useful, well supported and secure they are than the unofficial tools. They tolerate, but don’t support or encourage tools and provide incentives for people to use the official tools.
Collaboration: The organization provides official tools which it encourages and supports people to use, but also recognizes that for some purposes people prefer to use non-official tools and so they build interfaces to allow people to link them together e.g. to share posts via twitter or to bring in a feed from Yammer. Over time they might incorporate features from external tools that users find most useful or use external tools to provide those services which are harder to develop in-house.
This situation is made more complex in the UN because each agency has its own official tools which are different from agency to agency, as well as its favoured unofficial tools which have spread within and between them. There is no single decision point (person, agency or committee) that can map out a single approach to this for the UN as a whole, only on an agency by agency basis with informal co-ordination at best between them.
Which of these approaches (or combinations of them) do you think will work best? And how can this be applied to bring some coherence to the UN’s overall approach in this area?