Leadership and Social Computing …

A rather interesting post by Rachel Happe … the distinction between wisdom of crowds and mob rule … interesting reading … more so because it brings in some form of sobering to the euphoria around social computing. Having said that, however, the key point i think Rachel brings out is the idea about leadership. And this is something which i have experienced in my interactions with different organizations.

Especially within the context of the organization leadership plays a critical role. As i have written before, the difference between succesful adoption pf and hence deriving benefits from social computing and Knowledge Management initiatives, and the other way round, comes, to a large extent from the leadership and the attitude of leadership towards these initiatives. Now, leadership is not the only parameter here, but it is definitely one of the most important parameters towards determining how an organization is going to take to the larger social computing picture.

If we have an organization where leaders look askance at blogs (there are quite a few organizations, where senior management, and i am equating them with leadership, look at blogging as a waste of time), then the probability of the organization adopting blogging on a large scale is quite low. Similarly, for communities … One of the paradoxes about communities is that while they are supposed to be self-forming, and self-governing, they really cannot sustain without some amount of stimulus provided by the organization itself, and when i say organization here, i am really talking about leadership.

Which brings us to the question … how to get the leadership to buy into these initiatives. Lot has been written about this, but more and more, the ROI concept comes in. Managers need to see what is the benefit the organization gets from investing time and effort into an initiative like adopting web 2.0 technologies, in order to justify the investment of resources into this, rather than into other initiatives which are competing for the same funding. Having said this, ROI is not a concept which lends itself easily to calculation when it comes to knowledge, for reasons which i have written about before. This is not to say that we can do without something which is as basic as this in the minds of the decision-makers. Now, i am not writing about a score-card here, but some measures for performance (which are usually already in place), and their relation with KM initiatives is something which needs to be developed. And this, to my mind, can be developed only within the context of a specific scenario, rather than being generalized.

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