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IDEO, the global design firm, is known for the innovation it brings to its clients, from nifty swivel classroom chairs made in collaboration with Steelcase to a revamped in-store environment for GE Money Bank’s outlets in Poland, Russia and the Czech Republic.
But according to authors Margaret Schweer, Dimitris Assimakopoulos, Rob Cross and Robert J. Thomas, writing in “Building a Well-Networked Organization,” IDEO is equally adept at bringing innovation to its internal operations. The company has 550 employees at its locations in the U.S., London, Munich, Shanghai and Singapore.
Specifically, IDEO excels at using talent networks and social networks to be smarter about internal staffing. The authors write that:
- The company develops rich profiles describing the capabilities and performance of employees, which are then shared across the organization.
- The profiles, which can be searched and tagged electronically, provide an effective mechanism for uncovering talent that might otherwise go unnoticed and underused.
- Managers can learn about an employee’s collaboration on a specific project and how it contributed to the shared knowledge. They can use that information when selecting people for projects or roles.
- Because employee capabilities are linked to detailed information about projects and jobs, the platform becomes a two-way street: Development opportunities can target employees, and employees can seek out opportunities.
“Finding new approaches for optimizing talent is a critical aspect of organizational performance,” write the authors. “Senior executives would do well to give as much thought to the design, development and facilitation of networks as they historically have given to organizational structure and reporting relationships.”
The full story, “Building a Well-Networked Organization,” in the new Winter 2012 issue of MIT Sloan Management Review, provides additional examples of how companies are leveraging employee networks to increase individual and organizational performance.