Knowledge Innovation

Unbound Spiral: Rethinking Corporate Directories

February 3, 2003 04:27 PM

Earlier today I had a coffee with Tom Portante. Most of our conversation was round Ryze and again generated many ideas. Its not a new idea I hear from him and he shares stories about how what is very old fashioned is now being reshaped in distinctly different ways. So, we have both been writing down thoughts. The feeling that some threshold has been crossed. I think it is time to start sharing them. I'm fairly certain many articles and news items will emerge in this topic area. So far not in the main press.

My recent posting on Ryze have probed social capital and human profiles. Today, it is knowledge innovation. Its is becoming clear that this emerging social exchange could redefine your business boundaries. It goes beyond implications for e-mail use, linking address books, sharing resumes, or updating the HR database and chasing a new position.

Im not advocating Ryzes technology infrastructure or governance. Im suggesting you re-think the phone book, the corporate directory and consider how you empower Ryze bound employees more effectively! You may have to look RYZE to really grasp the implications. See my profile on Ryze. I believe RYZE type functionality is at a Tipping Point, where individuals will enter networks like this regardless. As a company you cannot stop it. The challenge for organizations is to start thinking about how you can use it!

Consider as an employer what might your strategy be???

Should you encourage employees onto RYZE?
Do you recommend a policy for behavior on RYZE?
Are you advising on any dangers? What are they?
What are the implications for PR and corporate communications?
How could it encourage new channels of creativity?
How may it improve the flow of corporate news?
Can it get you better hires and improve orientation?
And many more.

RYZE is changing the boundaries for personal networks.

Its been written before. When you make a new hire, you often hire their network. You want a task done; perhaps hire someone with the right connections at their fingertips. Increasingly, it the individual and their network you want to hire. Similarly, people learn thought their networks. Weak signals those on the fringes of our networks often stimulate innovation and creative thinking. Similarly current employees also have valuable networks. They are usually hard to see. Some will be more externally centric than others. For example Business Development might be encouraged onto Ryze, while new product activity you might desire to keep silent about. We are already at the Google point for every new employee. What happens next? A Ryze search and search of their friends?

Redefining Corporate Networks:

Now imagine you are a global organization with 10000 plus employees! Many of them are going on RYZE. There are positives and negatives to this list. The Organization and the Employee may well have different views.

What new employee welcome is provided today? How does someone on the other side of the world find out who joined the organization today? Is a picture shared? What might we get to know about them?

What skills might this new person have? What access or connections might they have outside the company? Do they have friends that can help you? Ryze style you could leave a message on their guest book. Welcome!

How do you randomly socialize a large organization? If it is part of the culture to look up even one new colleague a week, what benefits might that provide? Even if it was simply this is what I am working on.

Do recognition rewards e.g. top employee get posted in guest books?

You join a company you join a team. How do you build cross-functional links? Whos on the lookout for someone new? How do you search cross-functionally across divisions etc? For knowledge, a supplier contact, sales leads, socializing? Is this also a way for looking for new hires?

Will your suppliers sign individual guest books? Are you able to then search internally and find out who had what experience with whom? Makes for an interesting public/private issue. Whats a company to do with a post currently in RYZE that says. we enjoyed working with you on the launch of product x! When the supplier was hopeless? When it is a headhunter?

Inside the organization the add friends might be add colleagues. Perhaps colleague links are corporate sponsored and hidden (another potential RYZE revenue stream). This might seem threatening to companies. A whole network inside an org being identified as successful and being hired away!

Clearly the employee will have to think this through. It may pay to provide some guidance. Im not sure how one escapes from Ryze once they have made a number of postings. I can stop, void my main page, and delete many entries but really who knows? What are the employees legal rights? Being fired for being on Ryze? Hey I was there. Its a social experiment in action!

New Boundaries:

As each persons connections and interests grow we see increasingly permeable boundary between company business and personal. Corporate policy isnt going to stop individuals networking in groups like RYZE. Perhaps the question is can they broker an exchange so they increase the value to the organizational network?

The New Corporate Boundary:

There is still a further set of issues. Is the person on RYZE who they say they are? Are they really a current employee of company x or just impersonating it? These of course are issues for Ryze too. Verification just like in the PayPal case becomes important.

Clearly an employee that makes a post about their work on Ryze is stating a personal point of view and sharing what they think is safe rather than a corporate one. I just searched Ryze COMPANY IBM. It returns 285 listings not all of which are current employees, some are alumni. At the moment IBM cant easily link into these profiles, or those that are current employees any easier than I can. Current employees may be using it to network. Some organizations may even be fearful of out of network conversations for security - many reasons.

Then there is a section in each RYZE home page that interests me. Its an html space for each individual. I can effectively bring into my home page more pictures etc. CAN I GET A PLUG-IN from my employer that verifies me and enables my employer to track the profile? Sounds simple. What problems exist with this? I expect many similar items just like XML feed logos etc to be added to this space. Surprisingly its not being used very innovatively yet or maybe I havent seen the right pages.

Most of us will only want to manage one profile! We will also want to be listed with our friends. Thus the phone book analogy. Like Windows, Explorer and eBay only one is going to win. At a later time we can debate Napster vs Kazaa or how. Ryze is proving a demand is here now and access is easy.

Do you have a corporate strategy for Ryze?



Comments (1)

This is a really neat idea. You know i have been prodding my husband who works at a huge corporation for the longest time to get his people there onto an IM service, like yahoo. They have offices all over the country - and networking is such a pain thru email and telephone, and can be so expensive and unresponsive. A Ryze-like environment would be super for a continual flow of ideas, exchanges and news ... and even for transacting daily business.

Perhaps Ryze, with an IM service offering ?

His argument against it is people would spend too much time on 'personal' stuff ...

Posted by: Dina Mehta at February 4, 2003 2:37 AM