The Happy Intranet (Part I)

When, in the middle of a meeting, Martin managed to convince me to start writing blog posts, we were talking about intranets that can live independently, so to speak, because they are ‘fresh, healthy, robust, adaptable and vital’. Nearly everyone understands this metaphor in the work environment. This message is even understood during sales pitches. But its real potential, its incredible resilience, is much harder to understand and to explain.

Happy and unhappy intranets

Thankfully, my colleague Dorina Gumm  suggested the term ‘happy intranet’, a suitable definition for this phenomenon, during the last MiPo-Conference (website in German only). We will work with this definition for this blog post.

So, what is a happy intranet? We can initially approach this by tackling the opposite, by thinking about unhappy intranets. Nearly everyone knows those. Employees search but find nothing, usability is bad, restrictions and editorial bottlenecks interfere and frustrate. Some systems are as tedious as driving to the supermarket in a tank (German Article). An unhappy intranet creates desires for organized filing structures, intuitive and short click trails, transparent design and actual supportive programs.

Is an internet that offers all of this happy or fortunate? To learn more about what a happy intranet is, the poet Joseph von Eichendorff gives a relevant and practical hint. Around 200 years ago he wrote his romantic novel ‘Aus dem Leben eines Taugenichts’ (‘From the life of a good-for-nothing’), in which the son of a miller leaves home to ‘make his fortune’. I see! So fortune can be experienced as a state of mind, you can be fortunate AND you can make it.

Which leads us to the intranet project manager. The drive to set out on a journey and to create luck at the same time –  intranet-makers who have this desire want to see and work towards a condition in which they themselves, their colleagues and of course the intranet are happy.

Intranets that create happiness are productive

Many questions relating to our concept of a happy intranet arise: Can an intranet itself actually be happy? Of course the answer is no; it is and will always be an object of the technical world. Can it be lucky? Yes. Mainly when those responsible for the intranet understand their business and design it professionally. Can it create happiness? Yes. Especially for the intranet-makers themselves and of course its users.

When it comes to describing the concept of a happy internet, it’s mostly about the users. I have an example user story: Uschi Unsure opens the intranet, searches for something extremely important, finds it right away, can work with it and is immediately a little less unsure. In the evening when she goes home, she will be happy because of that. This is how it works: positive experiences ensure a happy ending to every day. So the challenge for intranet-makers is to create intranets that create happiness.

(If you want to learn more about this, you can find a lot of inspiration, design approaches and little tricks when researching ‘happiness research’, ‘joy of use’ and ‘hedonistic quality of software products’.)

But in order for the intranet-maker himself to be able to create happy intranets, a special personal prerequisite is important: Self-confidence together with Eichendorff’s mindset to actively embark on a journey and an attitude to make oneself and others happy. This is possible with an inner attitude to do and want good for others, and to use technical capabilities to achieve this. Then happy intranets can come into being and many Uschis will be happy.

However, three questions remain:

  • What happens, when intranet-makers aren’t happy themselves, but grumpy or even unhappy?
  • How long is the half-life period of an intranet that creates happiness?
  • Is it realistic nowadays to hope for intranet-makers who find their own happiness in the happiness of others?

We will get back to this soon. But the next article will be on names for intranets.

This article is translated from the German article written by Karsten Wendland. Wendland Karsten

Karsten Wendland is head of the Institute for Information Design and Complexity Reduction® (ininko), which is part of the Steinbeis network, and a professor of media informatics at Aalen University. His current work priorities are the digitalization of the world of work, information management and technology design. Here you can find an overview of all guest contributions by Karsten Wendland for the //SEIBERT/MEDIA blog.

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