Sunday, March 3, 2013

Psychology Influences Social Networking, Innovation and Collaboration

Who you’re talking to on your social network will make a difference in your results.

Short Term vs. Long Term Rewards.  There is a human inclination to take the short term reward.   Given the choice, a kid will take one cookie now over two cookies later, every time.    

This leads to lots of incremental innovation in the workplace and makes it harder to achieve breakthroughs.  

If you ask a bunch of your coworkers for ideas, you’re going to get a slew of suggestions on how to do the tasks they are already doing… better.  The good news about incremental innovation is your organization will rapidly achieve paybacks for those suggestions.    

But this short sighted thinking will handcuff you from taking leaps and bonds in the marketplace.  

This is the perfect place to insert the buggy whip analogy…Our company keeps making better and better buggy whips, in fact we bought out all our competitors, now we own the market.  But no one stands up to say “Hey wait a minute, maybe we ought to be in the automobile business instead”.  

We want breakthrough thinking even if it is disruptive.

Powerful People.  One great bet is to make sure you’ve got the more powerful people on your team involved with your collaborative innovation effort.  Those with power are willing to put a higher value on future rewards; to take risks; to avoid the temptation of immediate benefits.  Those with power on your team can appreciate the value of future benefits.  More senior people are frequently resistant to joining social networks but their input is very valuable.  
Natural Allies.   Another problem in the collaborative process is that those we’re connected to look an awful lot like ourselves.  We tend to flock to those who share our values.  Our common areas of interest outweigh all other attributes in our connection selection process.  Think about the last election and how many people were un-friended because they were blue while you were red or vice verso.  These like minded people are not necessarily your allies!

To get great ideas off the ground we need to find natural allies to collaborate.  People on my team, my immediate work group, may have competitive reasons for less-than-ideal input into my ideas.  They have their own agendas, perhaps in conflict with my goals.  Contributors who have no skin in my game are likely to give more trustworthy advice.  

It’s always good to have connections in your innovation social network that have different backgrounds from you.  In fact it might be beneficial to have connections who outright disagree with you.  You need to have holes poked into your theses to test their validity.  Trustworthy advice might be gleaned from strangers who are neither potential partners nor competition.  They are Natural Allies.

The social networking technology we use for the front end of innovation is a tricky piece of business.  How we collaborate, with whom we collaborate, the results of that collaboration have human psychology thoroughly interwoven into the process.  

Joshi, P. & Fast, N. “Power and Reduced Temporal Discounting,” Psychological Science (forthcoming).
Russell, E. et al., “Friends with Benefits, but without the Sex..., “ Evolutionary Psychology (February 2013).

Ron blogs, researches and writes about emerging enterprise technologies focused on social media, innovation, voice of the customer, marketing automation and enterprise feedback management.  Ron Shulkin is Vice President for Global Sales and Channels for CogniStreamer®, an innovation ecosystem, a Social Network for Innovation.  You can learn more about CogniStreamer here .  Ron manages The Idea Management Group on LinkedIn (Join Here) . You can follow him Twitter. You can follow his blogs at this Facebook group.  You can connect with Ron on LinkedIn. You can read more about Ron’s history at his curriculum vitae web site

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