By Steve Kelman

Blog archive

Social networking technology – the unexpected uses

One of the exciting things about the new social networking tools is that they create platforms for people to create uses for them that the tools’ originators never would have imagined. This kind of thing has gone on for a long time with new technologies. My favorite example is that when radio technology was first developed, its inventors imagined that its major use would be for ship-to-shore communication, which previously had been impossible. Teenage radio fanatics started the idea of sending voices over this medium, and then people started sending music, and the radio of the 1920’s was soon born.

This potential of social networking came to mind when I read an article recently in Business Week about a new application that uses social networking technology for providing real-time performance feedback to employees. As the article points out, “In the world of Facebook or Twitter, people love to hear feedback about what they’re up to. But sit them down for a performance review, and suddenly the experience becomes traumatic.” A new software package developed by a Canadian startup called Rypple allows employees to post 140-character (a la Twitter) questions such as “What did you think of my presentation” or “How can I run my meetings better?” The questions go to co-workers, managers, or anyone else the employee requests. Responses are anonymous. This feedback has a virtue lacking in formal performance reviews, which is that it occurs almost in real time. Also, it is voluntary and not used for determining promotions or bonuses, which takes the tension out. The article also notes that Accenture has developed an internal social networking system called Performance Multiplier that encourages employees to post a current list of 2 or 3 goals they have for the week and the quarter, and to update them and get feedback in real time.

We can be sure that as social networking technology stays out there longer, new, as-yet unimagined ways of using it productively will emerge. This is exciting to watch.

Posted by Steve Kelman on Mar 25, 2009 at 12:08 PM


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