Open forms of information sharing are only one side of the coin. The full potential of openness only becomes visible when open information sharing changes the way an organisation makes its decisions. While the use of social technologies have already seen major adoption in the area of information sharing, the field of decision making still poses significant challenges.
“Decision-making does not change just because Social Media are introduced.”
“In many cases, you aren`t giving up control –you are shifting it to someone else in whom you have confidence”, Li Charlene has described an attitude that allows overcoming resistance to changing traditional decision-making.
The following comparison of four concepts of decision-making types helps to evaluate the current situation of an organisation and to explore the potential impact of more openness in the future.
Centralised decision-making is usually related to strategic planning or used in situations that call for a quick response and decisive action. This requires strong communication as decision-makers must first possess accurate information from all relevant stakeholders. Experience shows that even organisations with open information policies still take most of their decisions in a centralized way. Decision making usually does not change just because social media are introduced to an organisation.
If a decision is taken on the basis of a majority within a group, for example a vote among all employees, it is a democratic decision. The group size has almost no limits when social technologies or the internet are used for voting. This is the case when a large online-community has to choose between some centrally or user-generated alternatives. One example for this is the creative community jovoto. More than 40,000 creatives are solving problems for organisations of all kinds. For instance, Unicef has used the community to commission campaign designs for an anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child. Designers submitted their proposals and the entire community could then voteand choose the best proposals.
Consensus decision have the advantage that in principle they are supported by each person involved. They also have a disadvantage, namely that the decision-making process can be extremely slow. Technologies that support consensus decisions are wikis that enable collaborative editing. In principle, an article in an open wiki expresses the consensus of all editors involved.
The fourth concept of decision-making is a combination of the previous ones. The basic idea of decentralization is to make decisions where and when those involved possess the appropriate and relevant knowledge. The decision method itself is similar to the centralised method with the difference that the decision makers are decentralised and that they make their decisions with greater autonomy.
About the Author
Daniel Michelis is professor at the Anhalt University of Applied Sciences and visiting lecturer at the University of St. Gallen, where he received his PhD at the Institute for Media and Communications Management. The focus of his work is the usage of online communications and social media in companies and organizations.
He is the editor of the Social Media Handbuch (Nomos Verlag) and in 2013 he initiated the masters degree programme Online Communication at the Anhalt University of Applied Sciences.