Social networking adoption, digital working and information culture

by | Oct 17, 2016 | Collaboration, Digital workplace, Information Management, Intranets

In almost all of the presentations and blog posts I have seen about enterprise social network adoption there is an implicit assumption that organisations are homogeneous and that works for the target group will scale for the entire organisation. One of the benefits of being in the intranet and search business is that I get to talk to employees at all levels across the organisations, mostly in departments untouched (in line management terms) by the IT organisation. What I see is that information behaviours vary widely across even quite small organisations. One of the reasons for this is that information cultures also vary across the organisation, and information behaviours arise from the information culture. Where the culture is primarily relationship-based or result-oriented the propensity to use social networking may be different than in rule-based or risk taking cultures. Organisations will usually have one or two predominant cultures with the others at a much less obvious level.

The obvious next question is how much you know about the information cultures in your organisation, and have worked through the role of social networking in each culture. One of the first to look at information behaviours was Professor Don Marchand at the IMD Business School in Lausanne. He and his colleagues developed an Information Orientation model that included an information behaviours axis that was published in 2002. The problem with this book is that the survey questionnaire is not included as the authors clearly wanted to build a business from the model.    There is a concise summary of the approach which can be downloaded. A survey questionnaire was included in the paper published by Adrienne Curry and Caroline Moore in 2003 but that was before Professor Chun Wei Choo published his four-element framework. A case study was published in 2015 by Thais Elaine Vicka, Marcelo Seido Naganoa and Silvio Popadiukba, and this does provide much more in the way of a practical methodology. The book by Professor Choo also considers each of the four cultures in some detail.

Another valuable perspective is the hubs, hives and hangouts model from Sam Marshall, Clearbox Consulting. If you take the 2D view of Choo and add in Sam Marshalls’ analysis you end up with quite a complex 3D view of working together in a digital workplace. That may seem over-complex but in my view it is better to start with this and then pare it down than work on a homogeneous adoption programme and find it fails to get beyond the pilot stage.

With the exception of the Information Orientiation summary and the book by Professor Choo the research papers cited above are not on open access. However I am confident that just reading Professor Choo’s book (Chapter 7 in particular) will help you to appreciate the implications of information cultures and information behaviours on social networking on a helicopter-view level. In my consulting work I find that just having this culture model enables me to recognise some of the features of each culture and then adapt my questioning and recommendations appropriately. There is no metric that would suggest that in a relationship-based culture 70% of employees (just as an example) should be using social media. It is more about using information culture and information behaviour models to ensure that signals about a resistance to, or a demand for, social networking can be recognised at a stage early enough to define technology requirements and adoption support, not when the technology is in place and the adoption is assumed to be ‘intuitive’.

Martin White