As I was taking in the keynotes of the Enterprise 2.0 conference in Boston recently, Ross Mayfield (@ross) opined on center stage the following:
"Discover people through content. Discover content through people."
He also stated that:
"companies are not communities”
You can review and access his slides from the E2.0 Conference over here. Now, I've never started a business like Ross has with Socialtext, nor am I the business development head honcho of a company like Slideshare, as Ross is, however, in the spirit of collaboration I'd like to append his two points. Since I entered the work world after completing my undergraduate degree now 17 years ago, there has been only one constant:
People connect people
That is how knowledge transfer, networking and collaboration first begins. Sure, we may have situations where content can connect people, but the process typically starts within the confines of your strong and weak tie network. At work, for example, there will be a greater tendency to rely on one's network when you have a question that needs to be answered, an idea vetted, or opportunities built upon rather than simply searching content for context or a live human being. If your direct or strong tie network doesn't provide resolution, it is more likely the individual will tap into their indirect or weak tie network (perhaps through their direct or strong tie network) to proceed rather than directly seeking out content first. And that’s when we see the ‘people connect people’ truism at play, and at the onset of any cycle. That's not to say people don't find new individuals to build their network out from as they utilize content or searching first. It's just not the default behaviour of an organization yet. Secondly, companies are in fact communities. They might not be the same type of community one finds at Slideshare, or Ning, or Amazon, and so on, but there are definitely communities in play in the work world. Due to authentication, one might even argue that the communities are stronger because no one is able to contribute in anonymity. That may prevent some from contributing in the first place, I get it, but it does provide a commonality not available on the public web. Corporate communities come in all shapes, forms and sizes. They can be organization-wide, team or project-based. There are even individually created communities without official sponsorship that are formed. Think Toastmasters, book clubs, running clubs, or philanthropic teams getting together to help the needy. People create these communities, and that's why I'd propose appending Ross' definitions ever so slightly. ‘People connect people’ and it’s the genesis of many other connection points inside the organization. As for the Enterprise 2.0 Conference itself, more sessions should be devoted to actually connecting people to people, rather than content to people. Steve Wylie et al should take note and institute more ‘birds of a feather’ or ‘roundtable discussion forums’ throughout the conference agenda. This would serve a multitude of purposes, not the least of which is addressing my overarching point that ‘people connect people’.


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