- Research Feature
- Read Time: 26 min
Internal knowledge markets can facilitate information sharing within large organizations. The trick for executives is figuring out how to make them work.
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CIOs who learn to balance formal and informal structures can create global IT organizations that are more efficient and innovative than organizations that rely primarily on formal mechanisms. Organizational network analysis provides a useful methodology for helping executives assess broader patterns of informal networks between individuals, teams, functions and organizations, and for identifying targeted steps to align networks with strategic imperatives.
MIT Sloan’s Thomas W. Malone, author of The Future of Work, says that the smartest companies will use emerging technology to tap the power of many. Wikipedia and YouTube are the best-known examples of “collective intelligence,” where many people create a lot of different things independently. "Executives and everybody else knows about the new kinds of technologies that keep popping up," says Malone. "But there’s a key perspective that a lot of people don’t really get yet, which is that these new technologies change the essence of organizations."
When it comes to knowledge sharing among R&D employees, professional reputations matter — but the chances of successfully garnering information from a colleague increase if the information is important.
Information markets, wikis and other applications that tap into the collective intelligence of groups have recently generated tremendous interest. But what”s the reality behind the hype?
It takes more than superior abilities or expertise to become a high-performing knowledge worker. It takes connections. But high performers are much more than “social butterflies,” say the authors. Effective knowledge workers actively employ three tactics to build deep relationships that will be mutually beneficial over time.
As networks become very large, they can fall prey to saturation, cacophony, contamination, clustering and high search costs. Those phenomena mean that larger networks can, in some cases, have less value than smaller ones. The authors have identified several strategies that network builders can employ to maintain network effects or limit their decline.
Informal groups of employees do much of the important work in organizations today. To help those networks reach their full potential, executives must come to grips with how they really function.
Paying attention to personal relationships accelerates learning and increases the effectiveness of alliances.
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