Social Business Software: A time capsule for business ideas

Innovation plays an integral role in the longevity and existence of any startup or company, irrespective of which line of work you are in. Customers today are always looking for what their service providers can do for them. And they want you, as the service provider, to provide them with solutions to problems before they even realise there is an issue.
Companies are also struggling to retain important knowledge and intellectual value, as key skills are sometimes lost to competitors looking to get ahead in a highly complex and competitive marketplace.
And then there are external factors; due to a unique mix of economic and political variables, South Africa continues to suffer the devastating consequences of a seemingly unstoppable brain drain. As we bleed skills and knowledge to other countries, organisations’ output and competitiveness continues to suffer, and the cost of re-seeding lost competence and specialisation is both prohibitive and completely unnecessary.
In an effort to fight the brain drain that may exist within a company, it’s important to take note of, and address, what the concept of ‘knowledge’ is. Underlying the problem of knowledge retention in the face of high staff turnover are a few common misperceptions about knowledge itself.
Knowledge, according to Davenport and Prusak (1998), is “a fluid mix of … experiences, values, contextual information and expert insight.”
Don’t get side-tracked — the point is that all of these are transferable and can be made accessible to anyone in a company. Whereas dealing in specialised or privileged knowledge is necessarily role-based in companies, its creation (a process known as innovation) does not happen solely within the realm of job specialisation, talent or inspiration. Knowledge can be created and amplified, over and over again, by merely practising well-institutionalised innovation processes and not limiting processes to a select few.
With the attainment of knowledge thus demystified, it follows that the more participation in its creation, the better. The potential for innovation is everywhere in companies. It exists outside of R&D, tech departments and even the executive team — it does, however, exist with everyone from your staff, business partners, customers, shareholders and the general public.
The more people that participate in the creation of your innovation process, the merrier your output is likely to be. The creativity process shouldn’t be restricted or boxed, and once channels are put in place to allow overall participation, it allows companies to maximise the sharing of knowledge and the building of seeded ideas.
Many strategies have emerged on multiple fronts to plug the knowledge sink-holes that appear with the on-going skills crisis, but few have asked: how can we capture the knowledge people contribute and possess tacitly? And how can capturing it be made integral to our company’s processes?
Those who have asked these questions have relied on knowledge management and communication tools, but all these technologies have, so far, failed to capture and make knowledge easily accessible within a company:
• Email, is not a collaborative technology at heart, it doesn’t lend itself to mass participation or information management. It’s also largely based on assumption (that someone will receive it and respond) and accuracy (that it’ll get to the right person).
• Most intranets are digital notice boards or document storage facilities with little opportunity for interactive discussion.
• Knowledge management platforms have failed to inspire mass uptake in companies due to their complexity.
Technologies that truly assist in the capture, creation, sharing and documentation of knowledge have therefore yet to be deployed en masse, but with the emergence of social business software (SBS) we’re starting to get the right answers.
SBS is a compelling, intuitive way of communicating that ignites participation and lets companies conduct all their conversations in one place. It gives organisational stakeholders a collective — or group-based — platform within which to contribute to the corporate conversation, safely and equally. It is private, it’s secure, it can be aligned to different audiences, different stakeholders and your different objectives.
As SBS is fundamentally based on the principles of collaboration, it allows for the amplification of knowledge. And in sharing knowledge, SBS also aids the creation of knowledge. Although ideas are formed in the minds of individuals, interactions between individuals play a critical role in developing these ideas. Social business communities can span geographical, departmental or indeed organisational boundaries. It also acts as a searchable knowledge repository for documents and best practices, even once someone has moved on.
In the face of rampant skills losses and erosion of knowledge, SBS can help companies retain the value created by individuals and groups and capture their tacit knowledge. Hopefully that captured knowledge may guide and inspire others long after they’re gone, and even get new recruits up to speed before they join.
Sometimes an idea isn’t ready to be implemented today, but could be a great idea/business model in years to come, however if this knowledge isn’t captured and restored it may never flourish.

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