The Happy Intranet (Part II)

An intranet is not a mirror of a company. Whoever believes this, is on the wrong path. Typically, an intranet is more a mirror of very specific and clearly identified business divisions or individuals. Sometimes very few individuals are responsible for very large intranets. So these individuals should really be very knowledgeable, perceptive and competent.

In a previous post I discussed the term ‘happy intranets’ – with the realization that it’s not the intranet itself that should be happy (which most non-esoterics hopefully understood intuitively), but that it should be helpful to the users in performing their daily tasks, and, in an ideal situation, make them ‘happier’.

This aspiration immediately leads us back to the people responsible for the intranet, in particular to their creative power and design intentions. The latter is often underestimated when allocating the above mentioned responsibilities, even though design intentions can show future tendencies prior to the intranet’s implementation and allow you to be confident of the intranet’s success.

For daily routines this could mean that if an empathetic dyslexic is responsible for the internet, the topic ‘social’ is quickly ticked off. What can be expected, next to a sober and systematic filing structure, are enclosed bread and circus arrangements, which keep people entertained and distract from the lack of important topics. Design intentions are then clearly not important.

To assist with the choice of appointing the right person, I would like to offer a little practice-oriented theory of archetypes of those responsible of an intranet, so you can asses candidates beforehand. For example, a list of archetypes with a scale from — to ++ could be handed out prior to an interview, so that interviewees can assess themselves. This self-assessment could then be a pragmatic entry point for your conversation.

There are five main archetypes for those responsible of social intranet:

1. The petrified

In this case, I’m not talking about confident anthroposophists of the economy. On the contrary, I’m talking about the empathy-free managers who are always cool and rational, who act and make decisions based on quantifiable indicators. They are rare and see the intranet’s ‘social’ part as a low priority for workers who are lower in the hierarchy. Even when they seem to be social, they are strategic and calculating.

2. The beau

An equally rare type mostly appears in management positions of marketing or communication departments. For him, a social intranet is a feedback generator, especially for himself: He communicates something and gets a lot of positive feedback. If he receives too little positive feedback, he quickly looses interest and writes yet another attention-seeking update.

3. The salacious social media junkie

You can figure this title out by yourself. He lives in the virtual world for a significant part of his time and kind of ‘feeds off’ his and others’ contributions to social media; the hunger is insatiable. When a desire is satisfied, a new one quickly develops – in an increased form. Not so rare. Quite critical for corporate intranets.

4. The pseudo social

He thinks of himself to be social and cooperative, but is completely misguided. In reality, he’s a patriarch with a tendency towards self-deception and delusion. In doing so he continuously causes anger and regularly loses his entourage, but doesn’t understand why. He’s a critical case when it comes to the responsibility of social intranets. Exists more often than you think.

5. The wish fulfiller

He implements everything asked of him, because he understands ‘social’ as being social to everyone else. He doesn’t want to refuse anyone. Consequently a colourful chaos is created in the intranet, which also seems social towards the service provider, who is prompted to relaunch prematurely. From the suppliers’ view, this type is far too rare.

Of course, all types also apply to their female equivalent. And there are numerous sub-types; if you have other experiences, please feel free to contact the author.

Perhaps after the publication of this theory of archetypes, much will change and the world will become significantly better. In terms of the present and the past, one wonders how certain people of the above described calibres came to be working in the roles of intranet agents.

There are two immediate answers:

  1. It was intentional. The ‘social’ intranet is there to fulfil the above described instrumental purpose, to roll out strategic social dimensions and to satisfy the management.
  2. No one has noticed it, because the decision makers are from the same types as the appointed. This phenomenon is well described in Lawrence Peter’s classic ‘The Peter Principle’, according to which anyone can climb hierarchies until they reach the level of their incompetence.

And so, once again the happy intranet did not happen. I’m really sorry. This topic is far from exhausted.

Three concluding questions remain:

  • Isn’t it possible that the idea of a ‘happy intranet’ is totally old school or at least a little naive? What concepts would be more contemporary?
  • Could someone, occasionally, make this developed theory of archetypes available as a little tarot set for moderators?
  • In regards to happiness, would it be helpful to see corporate intranets segmented into areas instead of as a whole, and to examine these individual segments with regard to their features?

The next blog-article is about simplification through automated communication that is so realistic, it hardly gets noticed.

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 digitalisation of the world of work, information management and technology design. Here you find an overview of all guest contributions by Karsten Wendland for the //SEIBERT/MEDIA blog.

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