Leverage the Network Effect to Unlock Innovation

When we hear the term “network effect” the discussion is generally based around consumer oriented environments; but there is little discussion of the key benefit of this effect in the enterprise or inside organizations. When I founded Spigit we turned the hierarchical reporting pyramid upside down and led a grassroots movement through the use of crowdsourcing.

Immediately companies found that there are huge benefits in empowering employees and being more transparent to unlock innovation and efficiencies. Today with the pace of change, it is imperative that companies move away from a traditional matrix structure with rigid functional boundaries. Companies must create a network structure, organizing around sources of value, with people empowered to make decisions with implications that cut across functions. Not titles, not office locations, but talent, and agility.

When a company operates in silos, people have fewer opportunities to understand the priorities of other departments. Teams can become more insular. They may place greater emphasis on their own individual needs, rather than working with the team-at-large towards the organization’s strategic business goals.

But it’s not silos that are necessarily the problem, it’s leadership. The freelance industry is thriving and companies should learn from that model. By pooling resources and talent,  information can be spread with speed and accuracy across the entire organization.

Treating a company like a user definable and shareable data network is the first step towards turning your company into a nimble, self-sufficient organism capable of repairing itself when things go wrong.

At Braidio we empower users by embracing the dynamics of network effects where the network becomes more valuable to users as more people use it. A quick start is to embrace the 5 C’s of network effects.

Communication — Provide your employees convenient access to information regardless of where that information resides. Often, information resides across different silos within an organization — look for ways to provide a centralized view of knowledge and information.

A constant promotion of communication from management leads to more ideas and thoughts circulating within an organization. This creates the foundation of a network, which allows for the other C’s to affect business processes across every sector of the organization.

Collaboration — Once proper channels of communication are established, augment those channels with tools that foster collaboration. Give employees easy means to collaborate using chat, voice, video, and other similar collaboration methods. Ensure that your teams can quickly query and search these conversation threads for reference later on. Once a culture of collaboration is established, the inner workings of any company begin to get closer.

Connection — Similar to collaboration, managers and business leaders should strive to create a connection between and with employees. It is greatly beneficial to foster an environment that makes it easy to connect with colleagues based on interests or areas of expertise. This doesn’t have to be reserved for people in the same department.

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Unlocking your employees’ value and empowering them to share knowledge and seek solutions together will help truly tap into your biggest source of intellectual capital.

Curation — The next step after getting employees to collaborate and share is to index the data that is being circulated. Make it easy as possible for new employees to search and learn from past projects, even if the original employees who worked on it are no longer working for the organization.

Much of the knowledge created by organizations is informal by nature. Businesses need to capture that knowledge through tools that index and make that information searchable. This ensures that the information your organization cultivates stays valuable for the entire lifespan of the business. An issue that hasn’t occurred in years can be solved in minutes if knowledge is properly stored and organized.

Community — The last step is to bring all of the previous C’s together. Most organizations have tools or services to do some or all of the above, but often they are siloed experiences that create friction within daily workflows. Look for ways to consolidate some or all of the above experiences to maximize productivity and enhance value.

Creating this centralized community makes it that much easier for employees to share, store, and even create knowledge that works for an organization. Merging it with other tools that employees tap into daily allows them to collaborate and share without getting pulled out of their workflow.

An organization that allows information to flow seamlessly across every part of your company will be much more agile and efficient than a competitor who hasn’t. Every organization is struggling to manage increasing amounts of data in a growing number of locations, all resulting in increased costs and management complexity. Empowering your organization with the dynamics of network effects unlocks the flow of knowledge and increases employee, and customer satisfaction.

Paul Pluschkell brings 25 years of high-tech experience at both private and public companies to the Braidio Executive Team, including successful stints as CEO and founder of Spigit, Kandy.io and MXNet, which he merged with IXNet and help take public in 1999 before selling to Global Crossing. Paul makes a difference by building companies that empower people and build trust for exceptional employee and customer experiences.

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