Social Product Development

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Preventing Sprained Ankles in your Knowledge Workers

Hi all, my name is Greg Marin. Since this is my first contribution to the blog, I am going to provide you a bit of context about my history and perspective, so the stage is set for future discussions. I am a long time user of social computing tools but I have always used them from behind the “wall” (inside the enterprise). I guess this makes me backwards from most that have migrated from the land of Facebook, Twitter, or any of the other thousand social tools on the web these days. I started using what I consider the core of Enterprise 2.0 in 2003 when PTC’s Services organization was growing by leaps and bounds and we needed a way to keep lots of new consultants from spraining their ankles. Our goal was to ensure that each consultant had the knowledge of the entire Professional Services Organization at their disposal to create customer value.

That’s how I got my view of social computing and why I get frustrated when I hear Enterprise 2.0 described as “Facebook in the enterprise”. People- to -people interaction is a big part of social computing but it is only one element of the way Enterprise 2.0 will change the way people work. Web 2.0 tools enable individuals to work with other experts, store knowledge, and capture tacit knowledge. Take Web 2.0 and leverage it inside a corporation and you have Enterprise 2.0. Enterprise 2.0 is more robust than just a new communication vehicle. Enterprise 2.0 harnesses the power of professionals by generating an optimized collaboration space for the development of new ideas, solution to problems, or just awareness of specific topics aligned to a professional interest or, in some cases, a professional passion.

These forums are what we call Communities of Practice. To the individual, they are a place that one can go to discuss topics with a group of peers with common skills, interests, customer focus, industry alignment, or any other thread that provides a context to the way they look at issues. The communities have a unique set of resources from which they leverage to develop ideas, they have unique terminology and acronyms, and they have a measurement of value on content that often is only relevant within their specific community. To the Enterprise, the collective knowledge generated by a community is much more powerful than that of any one individual (1+1=3). Communities enable an organization to leverage the best of all resources across the typical project or department boundaries, i.e. each individual has the access to the knowledge of the entire team of professionals.

In a product development team, this ability to apply context to product information is critical. Without the focus provided by community -based discussions, individuals “tune out” content based on who they know rather than what is being discussed. Social Product Development provides the ability for individuals to find people and resources that they did not know existed. It also provides the ability to leverage Web 2.0 tools that are integrated with the tools they use every day.

Over the next few weeks, I will continue to write about how product development teams can leverage Social Product Development to solve problems, discover new information, collaboratively create content, and leverage the experience of a broad community of experts. What do you think? Do I “have it right”? How does your organization leverage the power of professional interest groups across team and department boundaries?

image source: Running Man(Ram on

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