How Social Media can open organisations to innovation?
24 February 2012
Yesterday, The Work Foundation hosted a roundtable discussion of 15 business leaders from both the public and private sector discussing the implications of open innovation for people management - and potential strategies for building effective workforces through open innovation.
The event featured lively discussion on a number of issues, but one they kept coming back to was the potential of social media for employee (and employee-customer) collaboration. It was felt around the table that many organisations are missing an enormous opportunity by not taking advantage of social media, even though they thought it offered a potentially important route to greater autonomy, engagement with customers, and the building of new business relationships. These discussions were broadly in line with the conclusions of The Work Foundation’s October 2011 paper on employees and social media.
There was extensive discussion of the barriers to social media take-up, with some identifying employees’ resistance as a critical barrier to implementing open innovation in the workplace. Others, however, felt that social media technologies had already enabled effective communication and access to information that subsequently impacted efficiency and workforce performance in their organisations. Deploying effective social media policies was also seen by some as an important aspect of employer branding for attracting a younger and tech-savvy workforce.
There was some consensus that using social media for innovation had to start with leadership which encouraged ‘a culture of trust’, and which reached a balance between control and autonomy in order to create a more receptive work environment.
As one participant concluded, there seemed to be at least a loose relationship between the age of the company and the degree of openness to innovation. While for some younger companies with predominantly young workforces, the major challenge was how to set some effective boundaries on social media connections and collaboration, while for some more traditional companies the main challenge remains how to encourage their workforce to take greater risks and make wider connections for innovation.
The Work Foundation’s new employer-led research programme on people management and innovation will be taking forward many of these ideas as it explores the kinds of people management practices organisations will need to be creative, flexible, attractive, and, ultimately, innovative.