A Tale Of Two Companies …Posted: October 3, 2008
I have recently been trying to understand the differences between organizations, and how this relates to their entire outlook towards the basic idea of knowledge-sharing. And, the results havent been surprising.
This is a post about two companies … both are in the same industry, both are headquartered in the same city, and both are in more or less the same business, having more or less the same business model. What I have been trying to understand is the differences in their opinions towards collaboration … specifically towards communities. And, the difference is immense.
Company A has an environment where there are vibrant communities. These communities are more often than not driven by a set of community champions, who understand the requirements of people participating in these communities, and also take up the ways to meet those requirements … the basic idea … communities need to provide value to people who are participating in them, otherwise there is no reason people should participate. And people wont participate till they find value coming out of these communities. This is a circle, as i have written before, and organizations need to find ways to break this. In organization A, this is being done primarily by the community champions.
Company B, on the other hand, has communities which are vibrant, essentially in fits and starts … in other words, the communities will suddenly come alive for some time, and then go off to sleep. What organization B has not been able to do is break the circle.
The question is why … is this a people issue? Both companies have community champions. And, as i had written earlier, they have community managers … So, where is the difference? Ah … the people. But then, it has also been seen that there is not much difference between the types of people these two companies have working at them. After all, they both pay around the same, and they both hire from more or less the same set of colleges … So, maybe people are not the issue. And, this is intuitive … We are all social animals. Which means that we need to relate to others. And, collaboration is but a manifestation of this.
The question that this brings up … If people are not the issue, then what is? The company? Maybe … Or, maybe, culture … OK, i brought this up. I still dont know what organizational culture means. Or, even if i do know, i dont think i can articulate this. But, then, there is definitely something else … One of the reasons is the messages from the top … what are the messages (not words …) that emanate from the senior management! If they think its a waste of time, then it is … If they think its not a waste of time, it isnt.
Reminds me of a story i had heard … about the traveller who was travelling to Damascus. He met a wise old man just outside the city, and asked about the people of the city. The old man asked him where he was coming from … he told him Cairo, and also mentioned that he had heard the people of the city are mean, and bad-temered. The old man told him he as right. Later during the day, another traveller was travelling to Damascus … he, too, met the old man … and, asked the same question. The old man asked him, too, where he was from. He said he was from Istanbul, and that he had heard that the people of Damascus are very nice and friendly. The old man told him that he had heard right. OK, so thats not the exact story, but i am sure you get the point!