Nemertes recently noted that eighty-three percent of organizations are now “virtual” meaning that members of workgroups reside in physically separate locations. The emergence of the virtual workplace has radically changed not only how we communicate and collaborate, but how we build social bonds among employees.
Informal interactions are very important in any social network. They provide secondary routes for information to bypass chokepoints, they permit radically different viewpoints to influence the creation of knowledge and they are just plain fun.
If the only way any of us ever got to interact with someone was in a meeting with a defined agenda, there would be a greatly weakened social network.
Yet, our online interactions are often just like that: directed, well-scripted, little humanity. One reason blogs exist is to provide an outlet for some of our need to interact randomly, to gossip just a little, to ask ‘Did you hear about…’
It will be important for any defined internal online social network to provide this outlet. Because, frankly, if it is not provided, people will either ignore the network or find ways, perhaps inappropriately, to create such an outlet.