In 2009 thought leader Bell Labs was exploring what I like to call “FaceBook for the Enterprise“.


The Intuitive Collaborative Design Group (ICD) was charged with implementing a social networking and collaboration platform across Bell Labs. A primary focus was on integrated messaging and workflow collaboration.

This was a delightful engagement: A small, but high-powered team of forward-looking professionals working on cutting-edge stuff.  It was  nice combination of practical and visionary.  Here is the first of several “process-focused” posts excerpted  from this timely case study.

Our challenges were:

  • provide appropriate tools in an accessible user interface
  • actively encourage participation by range of behavioral profiles

Role, Behavior, Design Challenge

First things first:   Who is involved, How do they motivated and  and What do they want to do ?  In my opinion, you will probably find these types of behavior:


  • Proactively starts new collaborative projects. Motivated by creating and leading . Often a manager.

Design Challenge: Rewards for success in crafting traction to action


  • Cleans up info, reduces noise, edits and organizes information, actively creates tags. Motivated by guiding and organizing .

Design Challenge: Editorial tools – an efficient environment for providing value


  • Mediates threads and forges connections among them.  Motivated by harmony and compliance

Design Challenge: Management tools for crafting the environment


  • Responds to (by rating) or comments on existing threads.  Motivated by clarification and involvement.

Design Challenge:  Convenient valuation and attribution tools


  • Participates passively, contribution thru presence. Provides likes. Will join groups formed by others. Influenced by status and community.

Design Challenge:  Communicate the value proposition


  • Observes but little active contribution, no obvious presence. Uses service to “harvest” information provided by others.  Motivated by anonymity .

Design Challenge: Overcome barriers to more active participation , while providing a safe environment.

These attributes describe a continuum of activity and often overlap in an individual.

One of our nice (I think) design solutions in the Bell labs project was to graphically map relationships across the network.

I often referred to the project as “FaceBook for the Enterprise“, but we could also call it …

Your intranet on steroids

… is sexier than it seems.  It assumes that any organization or business wants to “leverage the water cooler”, i.e. affinity among the people in the organization

I must admit, I have a soft spot for intranets.  But that’s another rant.

The company’s intranet is the Infrastructure.  Affinity is the Model.

It’s how professionals connect.  Really connect.

… and Get Things Done / Collaborate (Don’t overlook that part)

LinkedIn had the positioning, the population, and even some of the infrastructure.  But they blew it.


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