Facebook started off as a people directory. Why connecting people is the new goldmine both inside and outside organizations. 

Facebook was born because Harvard University continuously put off creating an efficient people directory. Obviously, Harvard management didn’t see it as being worth the money or effort to allow people to easily connect with each other. Not untypical. Most managers simply do not recognize the huge potential value of quickly, easily and accurately connecting people.

“Harvard had repeatedly said it would combine its various campus directories -- what it called 'facebooks' -- into one easily searchable online database,” Seth Fiegerman wrote for Mashable in February 2014. Harvard continued to delay building it, so Mark Zuckerberg decided he would. “On Feb. 4, 2004, Zuckerberg launched TheFacebook.com.”

Many organizations realize that collaboration is key to their future. It’s spoken of as a lofty goal. Often, software is bought that facilitates collaboration, but rarely is a culture of collaboration developed, with all the necessary processes to support it.

What do we mean by collaboration? Haven’t organizations always collaborated? Yes, within silos, departments and teams there has always been active collaboration. So, what’s new? Why has collaboration become such a buzzword?

Because we’re talking about a new type of collaboration that bridges silos, departments and teams. Today, you need to interact with far more people in order to do your job well. Many of these people you will hardly know. Many more you will be meeting for the first time. In fact, an increasing number won’t even work for your organization. They’ll be contractors, outside consultants, etc.

Why is all this happening? Because of the Customer Revolution, or the Revolt of the Customers. You see, today customers want it fast and easy and that makes things increasingly complex and demanding for organizations.

To be competitive and productive today, organizational teams cannot simply work within silos. That’s because customers absolutely hate being bounced from one silo to another. "Customer success is not about every silo working separately," Jeanne Bliss, author of "Chief Customer Officer" states. "The work of the Chief Customer Officer is about uniting the company."

Recently, I wanted to get another name added to my credit card. I had to bring in proof of identity to my bank. My bank works as an agent for the credit card company and the two don’t communicate well, so my application languished for almost two months. They would have lost a customer were it not for a genuine apology.

Silos have a purpose, so it’s not about getting rid of them. We have to find ways of getting them to interact much better. Long ago, you needed to find Tom to help you with a question. You knew Tom. At worst when you asked Tom he might say: “That’s not me but Mary can help. She’s the expert.”

The big challenge today is that you often don’t know who the expert is. You just know you need help. Sometimes you don’t even know you have a problem. Your team might be creating a design that would be much improved by the insight from another team on another continent that works for a consultancy firm your organization has hired.

Solving this findability issue requires three things:

  1. People become much more findable by describing themselves and their skills well -- and, of course, keeping these descriptions up to date.
  2. An intuitive, simple, fast and easy way of connecting the searcher with the person who has the skills they’re searching for.
  3. A culture that encourages collaboration across silos.

Is it worth it? Well, ask Facebook or LinkedIn.