Social Media and Innovation
Social networking advances a whole new frontier of organi-
zational dialogue, setting the stage for continuous knowledge
creation and organizational agility. It brings people together as
a community. Just w hat is the role of community in today’s
organizations? In Cultivating Communities of Practice, Wenger,
McDermott, and Snyder argue that communities of practice are
vital to success in a global knowledge economy.
They caution
that organizations are competing for market share, but also for
much more: they are also competing for key talentthose peo-
ple who can make a pivotal difference in the ability to become
market leaders and to attract venture capital.
Of course, all this theoretical grounding is notable, but the
proof is in the pudding. Read any newspapertraditional or
on the Internetand your head may spin from the various
stories about how technologies are being used to solicit customer
feedback and track trends to competitive advantage. But just how
are organizations using social media internally in ways that are
useful and innovative?
Geek Squad
Geek Squad was founded in 1994 and is now a wholly owned
subsidiary of Best Buy. The heart of Geek Squad’s mission is
to provide commercial technical support for home PC users.
Of course, the company does it with a unique brand, replete
with black shoes, white socks, black pants, white shirts, and
clip-on ties. Geek Squad employees have also learned to leverage
social media technologies for knowledge creation and innovation:
‘‘Geek Squad employees use wikis, video games, and all kinds
of unorthodox collaboration technologies to brainstorm new
ideas, manage projects, swap service tips [and] even contribute to
product innovation and marketing.’’
Geek Squad employees used wikis to design and imple-
ment an entirely new product line, consisting of flash drives
with retractable USB connectors, for parent company Best Buy,
garnering prestigious technical design awards along the way. Sup-
port agents have even learned to collaborate while playing online
multiplayer video games with each other. One key lesson that
Geek Squad has gained from its experience in innovating via
social media is that to inspire organizational knowledge creation
and innovation, technology-enabled collaboration must emerge
organically from the employees themselves, rather than as the
product of top-down mandates.
Beyond using wikis as a collaborative tool for innovation, some
companies are also experimenting with the use of Second Life as
a tool for innovation. As mentioned earlier, Second Life (SL) is
a free online virtual worldwith people, entertainment, educa-
tion, businesses, and so onthat is created by its imaginative
residents. In SL, participants can make land purchases, including
private islands that can be used for any number of purposes, such
as business, education through virtual campuses, political use in
campaigns, recreation, to conduct trade, and so on. Some groups
purchase private islands and share the expenses among members;
this way they know that all their neighbors are members of their
own unique group.
Philips, a diversified health and well-being global company,
prides itself on its timely innovations and is now experimenting
with SL for product development in the area of lighting. It is
hosting teams of four to six people and working with internal
facilitators on small private islands to interact with product
concepts and to participate in roundtable discussions across the
globe. Philips designers are using SL to challenge users to think
dif ferently and to explore new scenarios.

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