Since its very appearance, philosophy has been about the thirst for knowledge of the world, for its every element and piece. Now, we have a unique opportunity to create worlds inside the world. Every community is a world with its structure, living beings, and obstacles. Every intranet is a living organism, and we should treat one appropriately.
Having not just common sense but huge experience in developing digital worlds, we also have the privilege to involve a cross-disciplinary approach and knowledge from other areas to create the perfect product. Isn’t it great? We can have all the knowledge working for our purposes!
Let’s draw some wisdom from the history of European philosophy.
Immanuel Kant’s (22 April 1724 – 12 February 1804) categorical imperative fits phenomenally well with the principle that the ultimate goal of the intranet’s existence should be happy users, and they should not become tools for maintaining the network for the money spent on it. Listen to your users, hear them. They will tell what will be the best for them, even if this is not about following trends. A good example is popularity bots. Many community managers don’t need so many bots in their communities but they want to have them as this is a trend now.
René Descartes (31 March 1596 – 11 February 1650) and his concept of reasonable doubt (also known as Cartesian doubt). Of course, it is about knowledge but having a reasonable doubt about everything would not harm anyone. Question every desirable feature and answer the main question – do you really need it or do you just want it? Leave only those developments that your network truly needs at the launch stage. This principle is especially useful if you have a small budget.
John Locke (29 August 1632 – 28 October 1704) and his view of the human mind as a tabula rasa. Any intranet community is a tabula rasa and only your experience will show you exactly what your network needs. You have your users, you have your company aims, and you have your corporate culture. These are the best advisers for defining the vector of your intranet development.
Again, Immanuel Kant, but this time his transcendental unity of apperception. Community users will probably try to make the digital workplace more comfortable and useful to them. Users are people in whom, according to Kant, the highest condition of “objectivity of knowledge” is the unity of the human “I”, the unity of consciousness of the thinking subject. All the experience they will gain from using the intranet will be useful to you, because everything they think will be about improving the community in one way or another, and will also have valuable unique insights. Since a person cannot think of something beyond their mental capacity, their idea will always have many full of potential elements. Even if, at first glance, their wishes may seem unrealistic, it is worth remembering that in the digital world, anything is possible, the only question is the ingenuity of the development team.
In addition to Immanuel Kant’s position, we have one more thought about the experience. A community is always about a posteriori, but some users still bring there a particle of a priori in the form of dislike for everything new 🙂
Phenomenological concept of intersubjectivity. People are similar, but not all people think in the same way when we talk about personal experiences. Not all users need what seems useful to you. Don’t be afraid to conduct surveys, don’t ignore them or underestimate them. The more different opinions you have, the more possible improvements you may do, and the better digital workplace you will have.
William of Ockham’s (1287 – 10 April 1347) razor. There is no need to multiply the entities. Do not create custom developments for the sake of development, avoid the accumulation of heavy functionality, as well as frequent design changes, otherwise you risk turning your intranet into an overly complex structure that no one needs.
Thomas Hobbes’s (5 April 1588 – 4 December 1679) Leviathan. Do not force people to use the intranet. Encourage them, motivate them, but do not force them. Do not monitor their activity publicly, talk about successes, but not about passivity. If you overload the intranet with custom complex features without proper training, there is a risk that users behind its accumulated skeleton will see an artificial and alien monster with which they are forced to function, no longer perceiving the community as help and facilitation of life. In this way, people will simply avoid the intranet as something imposed on them by management, something that shackles their work.
The concept of simulacra by Jean Baudrillard (27 July 1929 – 6 March 2007). Inspired by best practices and good designs, don’t copy them. Create your own cozy community, this will protect you from the possibility of creating a soulless simulacrum that will look, maybe good, but will not be popular with users, and therefore will not save your company money, but rather spend it on support.
To sum up, the advice is simple – create your own world, with all the mistakes and insights. Your users will show you where to go and how to improve your community. For the rest, you have us 🙂