Social Computing and Decision Making


I am reading (rather, revisiting), a rather nice Book … The Fifth Discipline … And, there are a few things which I am seeing in a light in which I didnt quite see them the last time round that I read the book.

One of the concepts that Peter Senge talks about is the concept of Reinforcing Feedback. The idea behind this is that as a particular phenomenon occurs in a system, this works like a kind of a Pygmalion effect. This means that whatever is happening in the system, gets reinforced, or magnified in amplitude in the same direction. So, for example, a pattern of growth gets magnified towards greater growth.

What is the priary means for this happening? To my mind, the most important aspect of this is information flow. So, for example, if you have a good product, some people will buy it, and will generate positive word of mouth, and because of this more eople will buy it, and so on … No matter what we are referring to, the primary reason for this, to my mind, is information flow.

While we have been living in the information age for some time now, today is qualitatively different. Today, with the emergence of web 2.0 technologies, the flow of information has found uncountable new channels, and information today flows in directions, and using mechanisms which were unthinkable even a few years back.

What this implies is that the adoption of web 2.0 would tend to increase the magnitude of amplification for reinforcing feedback. What this means is that companies had better be prepared to make sure they dont goof up. Any slip-up would get circulated across the world, over the blogosphere, or in online communities, and using numerous other forms.

Now, there is the question of ROI on Social Computing, this is something which is still highly nebulous, and as Luis mentions in his post, social computing (or KM for that matter) doesnt necessarily lend itself to ROI calculations (one of the reasons being the structural differences between material, and knowledge). However, this could be a reasonably convincing argument for adoption of social computing (its anyway coming at you, so why would you want to ignore it? And, even if you did, its better for the organization to have a presence in the web 2.0 world, so it can make sure its voice is heard, and the people commenting on the company dont have a field day!).

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