While all meetings have an officially scripted agenda, their tacit agenda is power. Meetings establish who is in charge. When someone calls a meeting, he or she is asserting authority over those who are called on to attend. Meetings are exclusive and closed. In most corporations, who gets invited to a meeting—and who does not—sends a signal about who’s „in the loop“. Meetings are a form of social grooming inside organizations. Meetings impose vertical authority. They establish status hierarchies. […] When power is diffused and distributed more democratically, meetings are no longer necessary. But corporations are not democracies.
Matthew Fraser – Enterprise 2.0: Wiki While You Work
Every social situation in which individuals are voluntarily taking part – sometimes they might also be coerced to do so by vocalized or non-vocalized social regulations, sanctions or force – leads to the formation of a social structure. Even in short everyday interactions, sharing an elevator for example, these mechanisms are visible.
Of course, one could argue that the trained eye of a sociologist might only see what it wants to see. In these cases, the examples have to be extraordinary, like pilots and other airport personnel building mobile colonies on airport parking lots. They even have a mayor, problems with prostitution and unsolicited residents.
Now if that isn’t convincing, i don’t know what else is.
On a related note to my post from yesterday, Step Two Designs has a short overview on how to use an established qualitative approach from the Social sciences, more precisely interviews, when conducting an intranet needs analysis.
Apart from individual use or hype that hardly relates to your average company, the value and ROI of Enterprise 2.0 tools in organizations is still questionable. The main problems can be found outlined in these articles:
- Dion Hinchcliffe: How to measure the ROI of Enterprise 2.0 tools [Link]
- Also take a look at his slides from the Web 2.0 Expo [Link, via]
- A more realistic and pragmatic viewpoint comes from Dennis Howlett [Link]
What makes me wonder is that, coming from a sociological background, i don’t see any insurmountable problems in measuring, and consequently determining, ROI of so-called ’soft‘ correlations. The social sciences have developed a strong and proven tool set for exactly this type of phenomena. Of course, the adapting of these tool sets to the enterprise could require more resources than management is willing to provide, but i think that, on a more manageable level, sound results can be found by even small teams and small initiatives.