Last week I came across two impressive stories.  My colleague Brad sent me the first story about Atos Origin moving to be a no internal email company within 3 years in favour of a more social way of working.  HR Technologist Steve Boese (@SteveBoese) provides a great summary on his blog.   After I tweeted that article another colleague, Martin Meyer-Gossner (@thestrategyweb), sent me a link to a video.  In this video Luis Sueraz (@elsua), an IBM consultant, gave up corporate email for 9 months.  It’s only 9 minutes long and well worth watching.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H5GRzeIIoZM&feature=player_embedded]

I just love these stories.  I’m not sure that I’m ready for a “no email” policy just yet but I find it interesting that everything continued as normal for Luis at IBM.  Business moved on and it really didn’t interfere with his day job.  It tells me that organisations are starting to realise that a social approach to business is certainly worth seriously considering.  Some are already reaping the rewards. 

A recent McKinsey study – Rise of the networked enterprise: Web 2.0 finds its payday – found that 27% of the organisations using Web 2.0 technology internally experienced both market share gains against their competitors, higher profit margins and market leadership.  By creating a networked organisation, decision-making power moved lower in the hierarchy, information was shared readily, organisational resilience was strengthened and employee productivity improved.  Moreover, they became “learning organisations” in which lessons from interacting with one set of stakeholders in turn improve the ability to realize value in interactions with others.

We’re moving toward a social way of working at SAP using Jive Software to help connect networks internally, improve employee productivity and share expertise.  We’re connecting knowledge keepers with knowledge seekers! 

But it isn’t just about software.  It’s a cultural shift – a way of working.  Leaders need to recognise the value of open, transparent collaboration between all layers of the organisation.  Yes, it’s risky and yes, it’s sometimes painful.  If you ask your employees what they think of something then you might not like all of the responses but hey, surely it’s best to hear that feedback upfront rather than overhearing at the coffee machine…or worse still, via social networks!

How social is your organisation?  Are you reaping the rewards or too early to say?