Does Your Organization Have a Social Strategy for Its Intranet?

Intranet is inherently a virtual space in the digital world.

For the most part, most social failures like silos on intranet is due to lack of an appropriate social strategy that reduces interaction cost. And the silo-sustaining incompetence in social strategy mostly comes from not realizing one critical difference between the physical world and the digital world:

The physical world is open by default.

The digital world is closed by default.

In the physical world, if you don’t build the cubicle walls and doors, the workspace is open by default, and everybody is visible. If you don’t hide behind a closed door, you are always reachable.

In the digital world, if you don’t have a phone, I can’t reach you. If you don’t have an email, I can’t reach you. If you don’t use social media, I can’t reach you. If you’re not on the intranet, I can’t reach you.

Without proper design, virtual space sustains silos by default.

Social Strategy

For intranet social strategy, there are actually three things:

  • Establishing virtual workspace and its conventions: how each individual team work on their own (what’s the role of the virtual workspace for a team themselves?), and how they collaborate when needed (what’s the role of it for cross-team coordination, cooperation and collaboration?). Conventions need to be established in the virtual workspace so that everyone knows what to expect and how to do things.
  • Establishing org-level, silo-breaking rituals: in the virtual/digital space, silo is the default setup (physical world is open by default, but digital world is closed by default), so certain org-level rituals are needed to make sure: (a) the opportunities of cross-team communication are designed rather than accidental, and (b) we strike a balance between “unnecessary information overload due to the sharing of virtual workspace” and “growing silos due to not enough cross-team information leaks”.
  • Information and workspace design to avoid social failures: Silos is largely due to social failures rather than technical failures. So the key to facilitate a cooperative and collaborative environment is to reduce the interaction cost of the social interactions.

Interaction Cost

One particularly important concept is that of interaction cost in social interactions, as described in A Social Strategy.

There are four types of interaction cost:

  • Breadth (how many people can we reach?);
  • Display (how easy is it for us to see each other?);
  • Search (how easy is it can we find things/people?);
  • Communication (how easy is it for us to communicate?).

And there are two dimensions of interactions:

  • Economic cost (is it worth the effort?);
  • Social cost (is it appropriate and proper?).

All those considerations are defining factors of an intranet social strategy.

Figure: Four types of interaction cost and two dimensions

Does your organization have an intranet social strategy?

Are your organization creating silos by default?

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