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Swarming – a new way of connecting expertise

Knitted Garden, Bournemouth Library

Swarming beehive – Flickr: Tanya Hart

Business environments have become drastically more complex and challenging for organizations to operate in. Sharing expertise is a challenge for almost every organization. This is especially problematic in organizations with over 150 employees and where expertise is scattered.

Traditional knowledge management and human resource solutions have been unable to solve this problem. Most enterprise software are stiff and bureaucratic because they have been designed for management purposes and not for the employees. In addition, they focus too much on documented information.

Complex problems require more tacit knowledge that is difficult to transfer in written format. Tacit knowledge can only be shared through collaboration and interaction. Instead of focusing on managing documented information more effort should be put in connecting the right experts. In most cases it is more important to find the right people rather than the right document.

Social intranets have done little to change the situation. The work still mainly consists of circulating documents and forwarding emails back and forth. Using social technologies like Yammer and SocialCast finding the right people effectively requires fixed social connections that take a lot of time and effort to build. Without strong ties, social networking is based too heavily on serendipity aka. “happy accidents”. Organizations don’t have the time for meaningless status updating and finding expertise can not be based on coincidence.

So what new does xTune bring to the table?

xTune present a completely new way of finding, sharing and connecting expertise inside organizations.

The inspiration behind xTune comes from nature; it is based on utilizing a phenomenon called swarming which is a form of collective intelligence. This behavior enables even large groups to work smarter together.

Swarm intelligence systems are typically made up of a population of simple agents or boids interacting locally with one another and with their environment. The agents follow very simple rules, and although there is no centralized control structure dictating how individual agents should behave, local, and to a certain degree random, interactions between such agents lead to the emergence of intelligent global behaviour, unknown to the individual agents.” – Wikipedia

Collective intelligence is not a new thing, but social media has enabled organizations to utilize it at unprecedented scale. Still, new technology alone is not enough. This also requires a shift in to a more open and transparent organizational structure and culture. This change is already happening.

We believe that “swarm work” will be a significant work method in organizations. The traditional hierarchical structure is not flexible enough for today’s fast paced work environment. Swarms enable experts to connect expertise more quickly and flexibly without stiff command and control structures. This doesn’t mean that hierarchical functions, processes and job descriptions are irrelevant, instead swarming adds a new layer of interaction and collaboration on how experts work together.

Microtasking and lurking takes knowledge sharing to a whole new level

The best thing about xTune is that how easy it makes connecting the right expertise around shared interests.

By sharing an idea, problem or a project xTune automatically finds experts who have related skills or interests and invites them to join a swarm. Everyone can decide whether to join the swarm or not.

The level of participation within the swarm can vary. The core of the swarm consists of “leaders” and “doers” who put in the most effort. “Microtaskers” contribute by giving only small advices that can still be a great asset for the group. “Followers” and “lurkers” join the swarm for learning purposes. Even small individual contributions can be a tremendous help when appropriately combined at scale.

 

Intunex swarm work model

Participation and sharing of expertise in a swarm is encouraged through transparency and by a unique social rewarding system. xTune recognizes and rewards two kinds of behavior; inspiring (those who create buzz by sharing ideas and challenges) and helping (those who rush in to help and share their expertise).

This is how the right expertise can be gathered effectively and flexibly across the organization for projects or any other resourcing needs. Problem solving becomes faster and experts are able to make better decisions together. At the same time management gets a new and up-to-date view on personnel skills and interests.

 

Janne Ruohisto
janne.ruohisto(a)intunex.fi

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