Amazon.com’s recommendation engine is pretty amazing I have to admit. The algorithms at work clearly know how to expand one’s horizon beyond the obvious choices. Needless to say, I was a bit surprised and almost annoyed when the engine suggested the fluffy sounding title ‘The Happiness Advantage’. Does amazon.com really think I need some self-help books??? To make a long story short, I ended up buying the book based on the enormously positive reviews and my general curiosity. Turns out that this was a good decision. But apart from providing some provocative ideas the book also revealed some highly interesting research about social networks. And this research is relevant to Business Analytics.
One of the key points in the book is that the quality and the strength of our social network has a big impact on our happiness and our job performance. In other words: The more stressed we are, the more time we should invest in social interaction. We all seem to know that…sort of. One of the researchers mentioned in the book is George Vaillant. In an article from 2009 in the Atlantic Monthly he stated that there are ’70 years of evidence that our relationships with other people matter, and matter more than anything else in the world.’ That is a pretty big statement, but I guess we all agree with that. So, that is not a surprise. But there is a big surprise.
THE SOCIAL NETWORK AT WORK
Shawn Achor goes ahead and describes that studies have found that positive social interaction between employees during work hours are tremendously effective at protecting people from the stress of their job. As a result, those people that invest in these interactions typically perform better. Again. Seems like common sense. But it gets better. The MIT was looking at this stuff as well. So they spent an entire year at a small company that you might have heard of: IBM. The researchers from MIT followed over 2600 IBM employees over an entire year. The guys monitored and analyzed various different aspects of the social network of these employees: Buddy lists, size & scope of their address books, social interactions. Here is how Shawn Achor describes the core findings of this study:
“(The researchers)… found that the more socially connected the IBM employees were, the better they performed. They could even quantify the difference: On average, every email contact was worth and added $948 in revenue. There in black and white is the power of social investment.”
Wow….interesting insights. Wouldn’t you agree?
1+1 = 4?
In a previous blog post I discussed how IBM Cognos 10 allows users to leverage the power of social networking. Using the latest Cognos 10 platform, we can collaborate around Business Analytics using the same techniques that we use on the popular platforms like Facebook, Flickr & Twitter. Most of you would probably agree that this is a powerful value proposition. And the findings make sense if you think about it: Business today is complex and finding solutions to problems is complex as well. The better networked we are, the easier we can pull relevant people into the problem solving process. And if all this is facilitated by technology, we can collaborate in real-time.
THE PATH TOWARDS HAPPINESS?
Over the past few months I did run into some skeptical people. They still regard social networking as ‘a thing that teenagers do’. But let’s face it: the way we communicate has been changed once again. Email did that a while ago. And this study shows that there is a tremendous benefit in expanding and using our social network. And if it’s not just about better job performance, how about increasing our own happiness? Now that is a unique value proposition, isn’t it?