The missing link in making social networks useful in the workplace

Despite the possibilities for collaboration, a Design News survey reveals engineers are avoiding social networks due to concerns around security and irrelevant information overload… Even joining engineering-specific groups on LinkedIn or Facebook resulted in a whole lot of noise and useless chatter, respondents reported, as opposed to serving up focused, practical solutions to real-world engineering problems. “It turns out a lot of the discussions turn esoteric or
philosophical and are not really things I found to be useful in the day-to-day
functioning of the business or my day-to-day engineering efforts,” says survey
respondent David Willis, PMP, engineering group manager for Agile Engineering
Inc., a manufacturer of precision electromechanical systems. “Even though I was
in focused areas, there was no focus.”

Design News is a journal for engineers and engineering managers who build real world products. Apparently many are disappointed with their experience of using social networks for collaboration. Not surprisingly, they want collaboration embedded in their work processes. Traditional forums and instant messaging appear to be more immediately useful.

Honestly, I’m not surprised. If you are going to apply social technologies to a situation without considering the specific needs of the people involved, what do you really expect?

This build it and they will come mentality also underplays the importance of a range of different skills needed to run a successful community of practice or virtual team. Sure, they’ll come but they won’t hang around for long if they don’t get value from participation.

Hat tip to Bertrand.