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Social media platforms are allowing greater connectivity between individuals and groups in the information age and as a result organisations are becoming flatter, leaner and more democratic.

That view is expressed by Dr Jonathan Trevor, Lecturer in Human Resources & Organisations at Cambridge Judge Business School, in the second of a series of discussions around the pressures and changes facing leadership today. Also taking part and expressing the practitioner’s view is Kate Tojeiro, executive coach and Managing Director of Xfusion.

Dr Trevor feels the effects of social media on working practices should be viewed in the broader context of changes in organisational structures.

“What social media allows is greater connectivity between individuals and between groups and that is exactly consistent with the organisational need in what has been termed the information age. Our organisations are becoming flatter, they’re becoming leaner, more empowered more democratic and more knowledge intensive.”

He explains that within ‘knowledge intensity’ is a requirement for learning that is exactly what social media enables.

“From an academic perspective, social media allows our human capital, our people, to engage with each other and with the organisation on a very distributive basis, a very autonomous basis, via technologies all of which really allow for the communication of meaning and new ideas, exchange of knowledge and challenge but in a very democratic and delegated way.

“In many respects social media needs to be seen in the context of what we’re seeing as the emergence of distributed leadership. People are not waiting for permission on high to engage with each other to make something new and exciting.”

Space and time are less important for organisations, says Dr Trevor. Geographic, divisional and occupational separation are beginning to matter less as the boundaries between individuals and groups and indeed those of the organisation itself, are being broken down.

“There are great examples of organisations which are now sourcing ideas and innovations from beyond their own borders made entirely possible through social media and actually investing in social media platforms in order to encourage that.”

As an example he uses the Oracle Corporation which he says, in an intensively competitive technological environment, recognised the need to call widely upon all the knowledge resources available across the organisation. It has achieved total involvement through its ‘Community of Practice’, a technology-enabled social media platform.