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July 18, 2013
Bill Ives Research: Social Software Appeals More to Older Workers
By Bill Ives
Paul Leonardi, a professor of communication at Northwestern University conducted a carefully controlled experiment to determine the extent, if any, that social software can improve employee content discovery and relevant expertise location. A major credit card company was implementing an enterprise social networking tool called A-Life. The company wanted their 15,000 employees to have a better sense of who their colleagues were, and what they were doing, in order to reduce inefficiencies.

Leonardi persuaded the company to let him to perform to test the effectiveness of the social networking tool through quasi-natural field experiment. He decided to compare two demographically similar groups within the company: marketing and operations. Before the tool’s implementation, the groups were questioned about whom and what their colleagues knew. “The rationale for asking those two kinds of questions is that knowing who knows what is really important, but in many cases, even if we know who knows what, we can’t get to that person [...]

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