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The Social Butterfly Effect

A great column in the July/August issue of Econtent Magazine entitled, The Social Butterfly Effect, which talks about getting the right information from employees to have an organization run effectively. Michelle Manafry, the author, writes:

“I recently received a vendor email boasting that the sender’s solution had the power to “manage the content stored in employees’ heads.” I’ve received similar pitches and press releases in the past, offering to unlock the potential of knowledge stashed away in the minds of employees or to connect individuals to others within organizations who have specific expertise. But there’s something sort of pathetic about reducing our interoffice communications to the level of database searches. The approach also fails— as do many technological attempts to supplant human interaction—to recognize the way people actually work. For example, I may know that one person in my company has the exact piece of information I need, but I may also know that she never answers emails or phone calls and is always late on deadlines. Thus, she might actually hinder my efforts. Whereas someone else I’ve worked with successfully dozens of times, but who might have to do a bit more work to compile the information I seek, may actually be a more expedient (and pleasant) choice.”

She goes on to describe the social atmosphere in a company is just as important as the people who are employed:

“No matter who first verbalized it, man is, in fact, a social animal (woman, too). The simple fact that I turned to a person when theoretically more comprehensive resources failed demonstrates this reality. And while work- and social-life might seem separate entities (even desirably so), the two cannot be utterly severed to effective ends. While our workplaces move further apart, we must continue to place appropriate value on human interaction and make it happen within—or despite—our technological solutions.”

Yet another reason to study group work and social networks, especially in a library setting. In providing reference work, are librarians using the best resources surrounding them? Would a call to a colleague be more useful than searching an online database? I’ve called/IM’d colleagues on many occasions because I thought they would be able to point me in the right direction with a difficult reference question. Heck, I’ve actually referred attorneys who have asked me reference questions to other attorneys in my firm because I thought that making this contact would be useful. My point? Don’t think that you can answer every reference question with a web search or a reference book. There may be someone sitting right next to you who can save you hours of research time because B) They have expertise in that area or B) They just answered the same question 45 minutes ago.

Oh, and I’m putting, “The Hidden Power of Social Networks: Understanding How Work Really Gets Done in Organizations”, the book mentioned in the column, on the top of my reading list.

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