Thursday 22 February 2007

Social Software != Wisdom

Andrew Mitchell, via some comments, recently asked a whole series of questions about the use of social software (particularly RSS) within small-to-medium sized organisations (SMBs or SMEs).

I'm going to give my thoughts on Andrew's questions over a series of post (and in the meantime would welcome your comments and thoughts too), but the question I wanted to look at first was this:

"Within an organisation, how many people do you need to get the effects of Wisdom of Crowds, the Long Tail, etc? I don't think my company of around 250 staff would be enough."

I think it worth returning to conditions outlined in James Surowiecki's Wisdom of the Crowds for determining when a crowd can act smarter than an individual - they are:

  • Diversity;
  • Independence; and
  • Decentralisation.

If a crowd meets these conditions plus an appropriate aggregation mechanism exists that results in an action or decision, then you get the effect of the wisdom of the crowds.

Size isn't really a factor (obviously 1 or 2 people isn't a crowd!) but clearly the challenge for smaller organisation is effectively achieving all of the conditions outlined by Surowiecki. However, what smaller organisation probably need to think about is not being limited by the Enterprise 2.0 concept as "inside the firewall", but to connect the people they work with outside of their organisation directly into their internal knowledge network, perhaps using social software.

Of course if you can't or don't try to meet the conditions outlined above, it doesn't matter what software you use.

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