Formal and Informal sharing in the Social Age

Outside of formal channels is where some of the best sharing takes place: is where we conduct our ‘sense making‘ activities and forge broad connections to create new meaning. As the four walls of organisations become increasingly permeable, we see emergent communities that cross borders of geography and hierarchy, bringing together like minded individuals around an idea, a sense of shared purpose, a desire to drive change.

Formal and Social Spaces for sharing

We need both formal and social spaces for sharing. The Social Age is about creating meaning, a shared narrative

Organisations are well set up to share hygienic information: holiday request forms, timesheets, newsletters, as well as ‘broadcast‘ types of communication where they state their intentions and purpose. Social communities are well set up to build consensus and shared meaning. This is the reality of the Social Age: formal and social communities co-existing, but serving distinct purposes. The formal spaces are under the control of the organisation whilst the social ones are owned by the community: spaces for co-creation and experimentation.

Agile organisations are willing to engage in both, recognising that the value of co-creation outweighs their loss of control (which is, in any case, illusionary as formal hierarchies of authority lose meaning in an increasingly fractured workspace and socially collaborative mindset).

Agility is the ability to outperform the competition by experimenting, learning, adapting. You can’t enforce it, but you can create a fertile space and nurture it through appropriate mindsets to technology, permissions and mistakes.

The Social Age is about sense making alongside and within our communities. Agile organisations need to consider a range of factors: social leadership, social learning, an understanding of organisational culture and how it responds to change as well as creative approaches to learning and development, the fuel that powers change.

Sharing is a behaviour that sits at the centre of effective social communities: curating content, contextual sharing, creating meaning. It’s not about ‘broadcast‘, it’s a dialogue that starts with careful curation. If it’s done right, communities create powerful shared narratives, stories that drive change.

I’ve been engaged recently with a community driving change in the NHS in the UK, one strand of which is to create ‘pledges‘, commitments to change made in a community. A very Social Age model of change.

We need formal channels, but we need social ones too: they are the applied spaces where we impact performance and enact real change.

About julianstodd

Author, Artist, Researcher, and Founder of Sea Salt Learning. My work explores the context of the Social Age and the intersection of formal and social systems.
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