Recognizing the Value of Social Interaction in a Process

Introduction

This article follows my earlier one titled: “The Importance of Social Interaction in Process Modeling”. While that article stressed the sharing of ideas and knowledge during process modeling, this one concerns social interactions in the process itself. Consequently, at issue is the opportunities and eventually the threats that such interactions represent. Some viewpoints taken from the literature and recent related studies can be highlighted.

Importance of social and mobile technologies

The use of mobile terminals in a process is getting more and more traction. Indeed, they encourage mobility and speed in performing assigned tasks. Also, “the emergence of social Web giants, such as Twitter and Facebook, has shown the potential for improving interpersonal communications, collaboration and group learning. Organizations adopt these tools with openness to public communication, awareness and relations. However, very few organizations harness the power of the social Web internally to support creative problem solving and capture the tacit knowledge of experts in complex procedures.”

“Organizations are investing more and more in social and mobile technologies to modernize their commercial and IT operations, but those strategies are often disconnected.”

As a result, the goal should be to work on a “strategy that combines traditional BPM (Business Process Management) and the concept of workflow with the social Web and mobile paradigms.”

“In combining technologies, organizations can potentially improve the quality and consistency of their commercial operations by capturing information on collaborations and transforming work elements into knowledge capital for the organization.”

Importance of social networks and knowledge sharing

A lot of research emphasizes the importance of social networks in the organization for sharing knowledge and thus encouraging innovation. It indicates the following:

  • Generally, communities of practice are not included in an organization’s organizational chart, but they are recognized as providing, collectively, solutions to organizational problems; they discount hierarchical barriers.
  • It’s crucial to ensure that knowledge is “dynamic”, both in terms of knowledge sharing and the generation of new ideas.
  • Knowledge creation, sharing and management have a strong social dimension; they’re social interactions between the members that support “dynamic knowledge”.
  • The biggest challenge is not to generate innovative ideas, but to choose the most relevant ones and put them into practice. Creativity and practice should be balanced, proving that innovative ideas are applicable. On the other hand, bureaucracy, formalities and resource shortages can put the brakes on innovation.
  • Weekly meetings, workshops, seminars, networking activities and conferences are examples of formal knowledge sharing activities that managers can encourage.
  • Many people say they’re more comfortable sharing their knowledge informally, as the need arises, rather than in a formal presentation in front of everyone. Coffee breaks and lunches encourage informal knowledge sharing, without realizing it; participation in such types of activities depends on the individuals’ personalities (introverts, etc.). Open spaces and physical proximity also support knowledge sharing.
  • Individuals share more with people they’re more comfortable with (key relationships, even friendships) and some are particular about who they share their knowledge with (only seniors, experts, etc.). Sharing is easier, naturally, between senior and junior, professor and student.
  • Though knowledge sharing with the outside may generate new ideas/perspectives, individuals are more reticent sharing with outside organizations (lack of trust, fear of having their ideas stolen). However, talking to people with a variety of different skills, fields and experiences helps people become more creative and approach matters from fresh perspectives.
  • Trust and the need for security are key elements in knowledge sharing (“I have to feel comfortable sharing what I know or expressing my opinions.”).
  • Formal and informal communication should be properly balanced.
  • Frequent communication is a critical success factor in knowledge sharing.
  • Managers should encourage the development of social networks.

Conclusion

These statements stress the importance of the “social” aspect in organizations in general. The examples given, most of them taken from studies, show the importance of social interaction in processes.

On the other hand, these articles do not really cover the threats or risks related to social interaction, which should not be overlooked. They may include, for example, employees being distracted by ICT, the Internet or social media; wasted time; unreliable information; human resource management; etc.

In any case, whether open for discussion or restricted, such viewpoints can provide food for thought for any organization!

 

Sources:

Business Process Managament and the Social Web

Creating value through social processes

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