The (Social) Network Is Your Company


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John Gage, the 21st employee of Sun Microsystems coined the now famous phrase:

“The Network is the Computer”

which became a prominent feature on the Sun Microsystems’ logo and motto. More than that it became part of their philosophy before the large scale adoption of the internet. They realised that the combined power of computers, interconnected, is the real computer – able to carry out more complex tasks than would otherwise be possible by the boxes we sit in front of today.

That same philosophy applies today in the world of social networking. People use Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram and other social media tools to extend their friendships beyond what would otherwise be possible.

If Sun Microsystems recognised this in the 1980s, and the late 2000?s saw the rise of social media as a phenomenon which validates and amplifies our own experiences, then why would this philosophy not also apply in business?

For example, the collective experience of people attending a rock concert and sharing their photos on a social media platform amplifies the experience for all who participate. I might get to see angles of the stage I couldn’t from where I was standing because someone else, at that angle shared their photos. I might get new insights to the dynamics of the band or catch a moment which couldn’t be seen from the distance I was from the stage.

What amplification of experience would your organisation experience by extending the natural personal networks of your employees? By making it much easier for employees to find and stay in contact with co-workers with similar issues, working on similar projects or just simply engaged in similar work you extend the reach of their experience to angles which had not previously been connected.

But what virtue is there in sharing the photos? Well, the natural altruisim of individuals comes in to play and encourages everyone who is connected to contribute what they have for the collective good. That photographer would get to see my photos, and those of many others, encouraged to do so by him sharing his pictures.

Encouraging your employees to become interconnected in a business social network is one of the simplest ways of bringing down the barriers to communication in your organization. By connecting the people, the naturally begin to share information and exchange ideas to such an extent over time that the network itself takes on the characteristics of the company. The collective intelligence of the organization is held in the social network and because it is shared it is not dependent on any single node (or individual) any more.

Your staff’s collective knowledge and experience becomes shared and networked amongst everyone else. There’s no single point of failure any more. There becomes a culture of sharing what you know because others do it and people find value in what others choose to share. As I have blogged before here, your value in the social network is not what you know, but what you share.

Consider, therefore, how important building a social network in your organization actually is. This is more than an intranet, a shared server, public folders or just a discussion forum for people to gossip. This is a way of engaging people’s deep-seated desire to be recognized, to be satisfied and to co-operate. To create satisfaction, Herzberg says you need to address the motivating factors associated with work. He called this “job enrichment”. His premise was that every job should be examined to determine how it could be made better and more satisfying to the person doing the work. Things to consider include:

  • Providing opportunities for achievement.
  • Recognizing workers’ contributions.
  • Creating work that is rewarding and that matches the skills and abilities of the worker.
  • Giving as much responsibility to each team member as possible.
  • Providing opportunities to advance in the company through internal promotions.
  • Offering training and development opportunities, so that people can pursue the positions they want within the company.

It’s less about technology and more about actually finding a way of working which genuinely makes your organization more motivated and much smarter. A social business network, such as IBM Connections, can let you do that.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Alan Hamilton
I believe social business is a new way for organizations of all sizes to form stronger working relationships within themselves and with their customers and partners. By demonstrating how any organization can become more open, responsible, compassionate and flexible I can show that staff and customer satisfaction increases, morale improves and better business results come.


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