Collaboration in physical and digital space

From an interesting article of Jonah Lehrer on The New Yorker

Digital space is also a social space so we have to use the proximity variables to design platforms and communities with collaborative objectives.

A few years ago, Isaac Kohane, a researcher at Harvard Medical School, published a study that looked at scientific research conducted by groups in an attempt to determine the effect that physical proximity had on the quality of the research. He analyzed more than thirty-five thousand peer-reviewed papers, mapping the precise location of co-authors. Then he assessed the quality of the research by counting the number of subsequent citations. The task, Kohane says, took a “small army of undergraduates” eighteen months to complete. Once the data was amassed, the correlation became clear: when coauthors were closer together, their papers tended to be of significantly higher quality. The best research was consistently produced when scientists were working within ten metres of each other; the least cited papers tended to emerge from collaborators who were a kilometre or more apart. “If you want people to work together effectively, these findings reinforce the need to create architectures that support frequent, physical, spontaneous interactions,” Kohane says. “Even in the era of big science, when researchers spend so much time on the Internet, it’s still so important to create intimate space.

Design the physical space, the rooms where we work all days it’s an important factor for complete project of User Experience Design in Social Business.

A new generation of laboratory architecture has tried to make chance encounters more likely to take place, and the trend has spread in the business world, too. One fanatical believer in the power of space to enhance the work of groups was Steve Jobs. Walter Isaacson’s recent biography of Jobs records that when Jobs was planning Pixar’s headquarters, in 1999, he had the building arranged around a central atrium, so that Pixar’s diverse staff of artists, writers, and computer scientists would run into each other more often. “We used to joke that the building was Steve’s movie,” Ed Catmull, the president of both Disney Animation and Pixar Animation, says. “He really oversaw everything.”
Jobs soon realized that it wasn’t enough simply to create an airy atrium; he needed to force people to go there. He began with the mailboxes, which he shifted to the lobby. Then he moved the meeting rooms to the center of the building, followed by the cafeteria, the coffee bar, and the gift shop. Finally, he decided that the atrium should contain the only set of bathrooms in the entire building. (He was later forced to compromise and install a second pair of bathrooms.) “At first, I thought this was the most ridiculous idea,” Darla Anderson, a producer on several Pixar films, told me. “I didn’t want to have to walk all the way to the atrium every time I needed to do something. That’s just a waste of time. But Steve said, ‘Everybody has to run into each other’. He really believed that the best meetings happened by accident, in the hallway or parking lot. And you know what? He was right. I get more done having a cup of coffee and striking up a conversation or walking to the bathroom and running into unexpected people than I do sitting at my desk.” Brad Bird, the director of “The Incredibles” and “Ratatouille,” says that Jobs “made it impossible for you not to run into the rest of the company.”

Carlo Ratti: Architecture that senses and responds

From TED:

Carlo Ratti is a civil engineer and architect who teaches at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he directs the SENSEable City Laboratory. This lab studies the built environment of cities — from street grids to plumbing and garbage systems — using new kinds of sensors and hand-held electronics that have transformed the way we can describe and understand cities.”

I don’t know if Ratti knows the enactive cogniction but senses and responds it’s similar the basic loop of all cognition in life. Understanding this process it’s fundamental for many kind of design. For example, the A.I. approach of Rodney BrooksMIT and iRobot – is enactive, embodied as you can read in his papers.

If you understand this deep cognitive processes you can design a better interaction in architecture, user experience or A.I..

What is PSIxD?

PSIxD means Psychology applied to Interaction Design. It’s the evolution of digital interaction as a psychosocial space, that is able to create new variables and dynamics.

UX Researchers are expert of the cognitive level that is necessary to achieve a good experience and usability and at the same time Anthropologists bring fundamental competences in understanding ecosystems, cultural differences and real-world behaviors. PSIxD brings to the table another piece of the puzzle, helping designers to analyse and design the relevant motivational and psychosocial variables driving social network dynamics from the beginning to their maturity.

A Social UX Researcher is someone that has these kind of competences, it’s another step in this field and it’s even part of a the expression of a new alliance between Psychology and Design.

The practical advantage to integrate PSIxD in the research and design process is:

  1. Less errors due to more comprehensive and detailed valuation of past and potential projects.
  2. More understanding from a deeper knowledge and more data about users and network to make better analysis and more informed design choices.
  3. Higher probability to induce certain behaviors in users and groups.
  4. More criteria to manage the evolution of the community.

A new Enterprise 2.0 approach: the principal processes with a differential value (3/4)

In this third post I’m going to explain the principal processes that express the differential value of my approach.

In general, if we consider no integrations with an external network (for example, social CRM, ecc.), the main objectives of an Enterprise 2.0 project are knowledge management objectives with a strong social component:

Open and relational behaviors (social base of a learning organization)
– Participation
– Collaboration
– Knowledge sharing
– Belonging

Individual practices of efficiency (motivation and engagement)
– Contents production
– Contents quality

Collective practices of efficiency (complex system intelligence)
– Collective problem solving
– Collective error checking

Auto-organization (implicit knowledge and dynamics)
– Emergence of skills
– Emergence of leadership
– Bottom-up feedback

To nudge a determined behavior it’s necessary:

a) build a social space (Social Usability) inside the organization. Today, with the correct approach, we can use apps and communities as a easier and safer way to create a social place for a culture of collaboration. It’s necessary to have a model of organization and group as an orientation point. For example, the learning organization or the open source community or the community of practice, ecc.;

b) persuasive design of apps and networks that combine intrinsic incentives (Relational Motivations), with triggers.

Social Space + Persuasive Design


Social Usability + Relational Motivations

To build a community is to trigger a complex system, to build a group with its rules, codes, values, practices (see the continuum explained in the first post). So, from the first moment, an Enterprise 2.0 project is also a Change Management consultancy. In the next post I’ll explain the role of minimal change of the organizational culture that is necessary to trigger the behaviors of the users.

So, how to achieve these objectives?

I’m asking you to do a continuous mental shift between complementary levels and opposite concepts (see Edgar Morin), to be dialogic, a double logic. It become a hybrid approach between the community of users and the group of professionals, between professionals and persons, between cognitive interaction and social interaction both with knowledge management objectives. Let’s see the principal processes.

1. Social Presence
The relation between community and group in a physical organization space can be the first advantage to know and to use.
The Social Presence is a process that expresses the extension of our social dynamics in a mediated interaction. In other words, when you feel that there is continuity between your social life in physical place and also in digital place that is the product of the Social Presence.

In an Enterprise 2.0 I use the Social Presence as an opportunity in two ways:
sandbox (incentiving the change): the community become the place to test now opportunity and gradual change in the culture of the organization;

example 1- it’s easier to resolve the hierarchical resistances of the company if you propose to select implicit leaders as attractors of a complex system to engage users inside the community

example 2- use the community as an extra space from bureaucracy to manage knowledge in bottom-up logic

alternative space (reduce the anxiety of changing): the Social Presence in the network creates not only a continuity but also a difference between the community users and the group of professionals in the organization, this duplicity could be used to protect the balance of organization during the strategic changes of the culture in the community:

example 1- the plan put in place to legitimate the implicit leaders inside the community lives in a context that helps to express the underlying dynamics, allowing to manage them with social network analysis and the explicitation of behaviors online

example 2- in a network you can decide constraints and possibilities

2. Indirect social adoption
In my opinion the principal advantage of Enterprise 2.0 is that by designing and managing the IT not only as a cognitive artifact but as a social and psychological artifact too you can have:

Less processes: and less consultancy companies to nudge adoption and learning behaviors, because the user experience on the interface of collaborative apps, of a network becomes a place where there is a concrete convergence of cognitive and social processes in the users. The economy of processes isn’t only about the convergence of adoption and learning but also about the interaction with the technology and the collaborative interaction with the colleagues.

example 1- building a channel of communication with a limit of letters like twitter is, in the same time a channel of communication, a setting that nudge the adoption due to its simplicity and the learning of brief style of communication, learning to use this kind of app is in the same time the implicit creation of a practices more efficient of communication

More persuasive channels: with the persuasive level of the design we have a more opportunity to persuade constructive behaviors of professional as users.

example 1- putting in the center of user experience in a social network the profile of the users produces the relevance of the people on the information, the community on the hierarchic flow and priority of information

3. Alliance between person and professional
Generally the companies don’t consider the person part of their employees but only the professional part. But we know that when a professional is working don’t finish to be a person, so the traditional organization culture crate by itself, by an implicit way a unknown land of knowledge, relations, conflict, motivations, ecc.. The vantage is to make an alliance between professional and person.

How to do that? By intrinsic motivations. In fact the intrinsic motivations are:

– the best kind of incentives that nudge the persons to do, because extrinsic incentives produce different behaviors less strong and persistent (don’t forget the extrinsic tend to eliminate intrinsic);
– the principal kind of motivations that nudge collaborative behaviors that are the bases of many knowledge management practices.

example 1- use, motivated by the design and  internal communication campaign, the needs of the users to express themselves and their competence in intranet that generally is a place of only a top-down information, communication, formation inside a cultural ecosystem of a organization too much rigid

To do this alliance is necessary a internal campaign of communication and influence the design too.

There is a relation between professional and person with the explicit and an implicit organization (see Knowledge Management and Organizational Psychology). It’s important to remember this relations because the implicit organization could influence not only the users, the employees but the consultants too. I’ll talk about it in the next post.

4. Virality
We can have some users, some employees that adopt and learn new technology and good practices but how they can influence their colleagues, their friends in the network, to do the same?

Leadership is fundamental to influence the others persons. It’s important in two temporal phases:
starting phase of the community, to trigger the complex system, to reach the critical mass;
– during the cycle of evolution of the community the leaders are the capacity ti improve or stop collective behavior.

The subject of leadership can be not only individual users, persons but groups too that they move as an entity.

example 1- put a limit to the possibility to enter in a group could be an incentive for other users to find the opportunity to enter doing behaviors the are strategic for the network

How can leadership influence others?
By bottom-up legitimation that increase reputation.

example 1- design the apps in a way that show explicitly the best behaviors and stop implicitly the wrong
example 2- it’s important manage the needs of competition that are powerful but with a fragile balance like the “dark side of the Force”

So it’s important to design implicit processes that help the emerging of leadership and manage this dynamic.

If in one hand the leadership puts in the center of viral processes the person, the user, in the other hand there is an intrinsic virality of some contents. This could append in two ways:
– content as a symbol of beliefs, mental models, implicit dynamics, subconscious complexes (individual or collective);
– content that produce a strong emotional impact like several viral videos on youtube.

If the leadership is generally more relevant in the design level of persuasion the contents are relevant in internal communication campaign. In the virality process is important to use social network analysis to check what’s going on in the network.

In the next post I’m going to show the principal operative phases of consulting.

A new Enterprise 2.0 approach: Frequent setup errors (2/4)

In the first post I introduced the principal levels and variables characterizing an Enterprise 2.0 project.
From my integrated point of view we can identify four frequent setup errors present in several Enterprise 2.0 approaches.

It’s not the Web
The design point of view of a web interface or of a famous social network is only a part of knowlewdge nessesary in an Enterprise 2.0 project. The point is to understand the psychosocial, motivational and persuasive mechanisms under the success of an app or a project. If you don’t consider these levels and variables:

  • you lose the opportunity to have major probabilities that the target behaviours will be performed by the users
  • you risk to not understand what is going on in the network and losing the social dynamics in the network instead to managed them

The users in a company don’t make a free choice when they adopt a new app and collaborative practies, like what happens in the open web. So it’s necessary a strategy of engagement.

Objectives and the ecosystem of a network in a company are different from a social network in the web. This means different users, differents behaviours, different incentives, different strategies from the web.


In the last fifteen years many companies had thought that is enough to have a good IT, a good technology, to achieve several knowledge management objectives. But opening a channel isn’t enough to make people participate. In fact, the knowledge management processes and practices have a relational origin in the organizational culture. With a technocentric point of view, IT only extends the cognitive processes inside the knowledge management processes of the organisation. So, the risk is to have the potentiated capacity of communication, collaboration but not used or partially used.

You have to work both on technology and organisational culture at the same time.

Only top-down
When consultants or designers talk about top-down processes in a social network or intranet, generally they mean the hierarchic direction, from the top to the bottom of contents, information organisation and the strategy of governance of the community. But top-down can be also the motivational strategy and the typology of incentives. It’s fundamental moving from estrinsic to intrinsic motivations because intrinsic incentives are the best to nudge collaborative behaviours. If you want active users, don’t use only a TV or bingo incentive metaphor that makes them passive.

It’s not a matter of faith in the bottom-up organisation. The logic between top-down and bottom-up is inclusive, not esclusive. The point is to understand that auto-organizations of behaviours and informations (meme) is related to more engagement of the user and the evolution of the community.

The knowledge management objectives are a challenge to the decisional capacity and coordination of several parts of a big company. An Enterprise 2.0 project could create hierarchic and conflictual resistence inside the structure of the organization. The complexity is also present in the different competences required to understand and manage all the different levels. Generally this situation produce the request that a partial approach can be “magical” enough, or that the company need only a design solution because they have clear the strategic point of view. Unfortunatly the difficulty to deal this complex and multilevel scenario produced a big loss of time and money for the many companies.

Don’t worry, it’s normal. It’s physilogically difficult for a big company organised an important internal coordination for a transversal project as a project of Enterprise 2.0. It’s also normal that there is always someone ready to collude with this partial request.

The correct way is that from the first moment an Enterprise 2.0 project is Change Management and is fundamental to not collude with this partial request, but help the company to coordinate and understand itself to produce solid start point.

In the next post I’ll introduce the main processes of my approach to Enterprise 2.0.

A new Enterprise 2.0 approach: fundamentals and competences (1/4)

This is the first of a four post introduction to a new approach to the Enterprise 2.0 concept.

To start, I’m going to show you the basic concepts and the fundamental conditions you need to understand the specific variables, the levels and the competencies of a E2.0 project.

The specific points of view of my approach are two:

1. PSIxD: the integration of psychological and social levels in the cognitive artefacts
2. Hybrid: the transdisciplinary convergence of competences necessary to analyse and design in complex scenarios

– PSIxD is the acronim of Psychology applied to Interaction Design, a field I’m working on since several years ago, check for example the syntesis of the methodology I created with Davide Casali.

PSIxD is an important differentiation point from a big part of Enterprise 2.0 approaches that you can find around the world. It’s an expression of the changing of users and the co-evolution between human and cognitive artefacts. It’s a scientific and serious modality to analyse the impact of that darwinian natural selection of technologies, apps and practices that is the web and the mobile. We had seen to much speculations on Web 2.0. What are in synthesis the concepts you have to know?

  • the cognitive artefacts extend the cognitive processes
  • the social networks expand the social dynamics

So, in other words, the interaction is even more a virtual space, a middle ground where you can represent and manipulate mental, social and motivational dynamics of users. In an Enterprise 2.0 scenario PSIxD is a methodology of Persuasive Design that improves the probability to nudge the user to take or break several behaviours.

– Hybrid is the mix of competence, theories and tools you need to approach all levels present in Enterprise 2.0 project.
Too many models of Enterprise 2.0 are too limited on a few competences and points of view.

The competence have to be transdisciplinary because the object of consult and design is a complex system.

We have two principal objects, users and organization.

The user in a social network is on a continuum between a complex system and a psychological and social system.
In the first case the user is a node, expression of nonlinear dynamics of a complex net, in the second case the network is the expression of specific psychological and social caratteristics of the user. So, to analyse and design we need these competences:

  • Social Network Analysis
  • PSIxD (User Centered Design approach is implicit in IxD)

The organisation is on a similar continuum, so in one hand we have the organisation as complex, autopoietic system and in the other hand we have the organisation as a psychosocial group of persons. So as competences we need:

  • Management of complexity (Change Mangement from a complex system point of view)
  • Psychology of organisations

You can see in this image the hybrid competencies that are necessery to manage a Enterprise 2.0 project.

In the next post I’ll talk about the most frequentily mistakes in Enterprise 2.0.