The Incentive to Participate in Social Networks and Enterprise 2.0
John Sviokla wrote a fascinating post recently about the reasons why people participate in social networks. He argues that people participate in social networks for the social aspect of them, not for any monetary rewards. In fact, it seems that when you attempt to provide monetary rewards for social behavior, people actually become less likely to participate as much as they did previously. Ross Mayfield has an interesting discussion about this same topic.
This has some interesting implications on the adoption of Web 2.0 technology in the enterprise. It essentially means that you have to leave the social rewards in place and not tie participation to performance reviews or any kind of "standard" incentives. You need to make it easy for people to feel a certain sense of gratification about participating in the process--provide recognition, or thanks of some kind.
Now, I think if you went to the average manager who has to fight and claw their way to a bigger budget for raises, and told him that he could inspire his employees better, for free, he'd be doing backflips and asking you where the mind-control device was. But, this is pretty simple stuff. Respond to people, thank them, acknowledge them, and they'll contribute more and more. It feeds into our base need to be social, to have other people acknowledge and respect us. This is something that can only partially be addressed by paychecks.
What's really cool is that I think this opens up the possibility of Web 2.0 technology not only improving knowledge management and sharing processes, but it also has the ability to motivate people beyond their current levels of participation. The main reason Web 2.0 technologies revolves are so cool is because they connect people and get them involved in communities where the whole is greater than the sum of the parts.
Simply doing things like including the top rated blog posts, or the person who posts/tags most often, on the company Intranet, may be enough to spur some great participation in these new technologies. Include an RSS feed of the most relevant information coming from people, and most importantly, acknowledge them. Perhaps the CEO could make a monthly mention of the person who contributes the most to the company's info-sphere for that month. Not only would it encourage participation by everyone, but it would also motivate them. It would let them know that if they just participate in this network, they will be noticed, and they'll be acknowledged.
One of the biggest pet peeves I had when I was an employed programmer was that when I would have a great idea and implement it, my boss would somehow get most of the credit. The "team" aspect aside, there's a lot more motivation to flesh ideas out and develop them and see them thrive if I know that the success of the idea can be traced back to me. It's selfish, yes, but it's also undeniable.
Web 2.0 technologies pull back the curtain and reveal who the real magicians are in the company. Not only is it good for the magicians, there's really no way that it can't be good for the company.