How to turn a document-centric work force into a human-centric one

Rhonda Lowry of Turner Broadcasting and Dennis O/Malley of Moxie SoftwareAre any “naked intellectualists” running around at your company? If so, find them, treat them right, and they can help turn the old-document-centric style of work into a culture and work flow that is more collaborative, social and human-centric. This was the wisdom from Rhonda Lowry, VP of Emerging Social Web Technologies at Turner Broadcasting, who spoke at GigaOM’s Net:Work conference Thursday.

Lowry explained that the human has been taken out of work at many large companies and led to a “hierarchical, document-centric culture.” But changing that culture to one that’s more collaborative and social requires people who are willing to admit that they don’t know everything, the so-called “naked intellectualists” who can expose their lack of knowledge and act as a model for other employees trying to learn how to switch gears after what might be a lifetime of thinking in terms of documents, and delivering goods once they are finished and having a very buttoned down mentality.

Of course, this assumes a company wants and benefits form having a human-centric model. In the panel discussion, Dennis O’Malley, VP of Services at Moxie Software explained that offering social and collaborative tools doesn’t always end up boosting productivity. In some ways it may help make a company more agile and improve quality, metrics that may not be easily measured and hard for managers to justify. Yet he believes that over time, implementing collaborative and social tools can help the bottom line by reducing waste or identifying problems early enough so they can be fixed.

He gave an example of a pharmaceutical company that reduced time wasted in its supply chain by 40 percent because employees could anticipate upcoming problems by looking at the social tools. Plus, even if the company doesn’t think it’s ready to be human-centric, employees may disagree and find their own ways around IT structures that force them to use document-centric tools. Lowry said she recently got a sales call form a social vendor who said that 800 employees under the Turner domain were already buying the company’s product, so it might make sense for Turner to buy the product at an enterprise level.

The overall gist of the talk was that social tools are not a panacea, nor are they a problem. When companies understand the value and help employees become used to thinking in a human-centric way as opposed to in a document-centric way, work changes, but ultimately it can change in ways that are beneficial.

Watch live streaming video from gigaomnetwork at

Photo by Pinar Ozger.