Everything happens through conversation. Conversations are the medium through which personal and business growth take place. We build relationships, culture, and business through our conversations. And all businesses, small and large, are faced with the challenge of enabling conversations in a healthy, constructive, and productive way.
When people are working together to achieve common goals, there is a sense of shared ownership. Yet most businesses are complex, and creating the sense of shared ownership is often difficult when employees work in disparate locations and time zones, on different floors, in different departments, and represent many levels in the hierarchy. As the complexity grows, the ability to convey important information and share knowledge through company-wide conversations becomes increasingly difficult.
This was precisely the challenge faced by one of our clients, LA-based New Wave Entertainment, just two years ago as it changed its business model to encompass new offerings and a new strategy. As a result, the New Wave workforce expanded to 240 employees now housed across three buildings, creating conversational complexity. Michael Clow, New Wave Entertainment’s Director of Engineering explained, “With our shift in strategy our company quickly became very complex, with many little groups within groups.” Face-to-face conversations, meetings, emails and calls only go so far. “To stay competitive we had to change the way we worked with each other.”
One of their solutions was to create an Intranet. Says Clow, an Intranet creates a “level playing field” where all the time-space challenges dissolve. They are replaced by one conversational growth engine designed for the mutual benefit of all.
Intranets have many advantages—and significant challenges.[See Intranets: Pros and Cons. But what exactly is an Intranet? At its most broad definition an Intranet is a system “that integrates web-based tools” into an internal system “behind the organization’s firewall,” explains New Wave’s Clow. As the world becomes faster, smaller, and more interconnected, and as technology solutions evolve, conversations are being redefined from a linear exchange of information to an interaction free of time and space. Today these technologies mean we are able to create conversations with anyone, anytime, anywhere. Thus, an Intranet allows businesses to harness the benefits of web technologies, while keeping an organization’s sensitive and valuable information in-house – limited to only the users it invites/allows into its network.
Myth Busting – Intranets Are Suited to Smaller Companies
Smaller businesses tend to think of Intranets as something for only large companies. Yet in some ways that would be like saying the Internet is only for large companies. In an increasingly networked world, the Intranet moves information sharing beyond a shared computer drive to a powerful platform that can be customized to meet any business’ needs. The reality is that once any business gets larger than a small group of people sitting around a board room table, keeping everyone on the same page gets more difficult. An Intranet allows you to have one secure place – accessible 24 hours a day – where anyone in the company can post and access information. In small companies, Intranets are a way to create a shared platform for literally everything - weekly updates, success stories, and challenges - anything you can imagine that is useful for your employees to be thinking about.
The Intranet also serves as a far better document control manager. When was the last time you worked on a presentation only to find out it wasn’t the latest one? People can work together to create presentations and keep better control of the drafting process. What’s more, the biggest benefit is that the time from idea to realization is shorter, meaning you can capitalize on what is coming through your network – fast!
For the last 25 years at Benchmark Communications, Inc, we have been studying “Creating WE” – working with clients to change from I-centric to We-centric practices, in order to build healthier, thriving organizations. Our research has identified that people thrive when they are included, valued, and are making contributions to a community – it’s what we call the “code of interdependence.” When companies establish their own Intranets as a vehicle for interconnectivity, they establish their essential “codes of interdependence.”
When the Intranet is put in place, it becomes a new platform for sharing information, having a voice, exploring each other’s best practices, celebrating successes, and deepening relationships, all vital to the growth of relationships, community, and the business. The Intranet offers a platform to making Creating WE a reality, offering a way to reduce and/or circumvent complexity, while creating connectivity.