Social Technologies and Social Cognition: Vicarious Learning through Ambient Awareness

Event Date: 

Thursday, January 15, 2015 - 12:00pm

Event Location: 

  • SSMS 2135

Paul Leonardi
Professor, Technology Management Program, UCSB

A great many studies have extolled the virtues of shared cognition within social organizations. When individuals within teams and organizations share similar mental maps of task and communication behavior they perform better on a whole host of outcomes (e.g., faster product development, higher quality outputs, increased team performance, increased individual satisfaction at work, etc.). But how can individuals who work together develop shared cognition? This study proposes that the mundane use of social technologies may help individuals converge on common understandings of who knows what and whom within organizations. Social technologies enable people to become aware of ambient communications – communications occurring amongst others around them, but with which they are not directly involved. Data from a natural experiment at a large financial services firm demonstrates that ambient awareness enabled by the use of a social networking tool in the workplace can lead to convergence in people’s perceptions of who knows what and whom within the organization. I discuss the implications of theses findings for theories of knowledge sharing and technology use.