Apr 14, 2010
For those of you who have read Dan Brown’s new book “The Lost Symbol” there is an interesting concept of measuring the temperature of a population. I’ll provide a quick couple of paragraphs, noting that it’s really not critical in any way to the plot of the story:
Trish laughed. “Yeah, sounds crazy, I know. What I mean is that it quantified the nation’s emotional state. It offered a kind of cosmic consciousness barometer, if you will. Trish explained how, using a data field on the nation’s communications, one could assess the nation’s mood based on the “occurrence density” of certain keywords and emotional indicators in the data field. Happier times had happier language, and stressful times vice versa. In the event, for example, of a terrorist attack, the government could use data fields to measure the shift in America’s psyche and better advise the president on the emotional impact of the event.
“Fascinating,” Katherine said, stroking her chin. “So essentially, you’re examining a population of individuals… as if it were a single organism.”1
Admittedly, it is such an interesting idea that as we enter a world of enterprise social media, that we could install software that looked at the density of search terms or keywords, or even tags, and make some meaning out of them that translated into good or bad moods. We could even do this today with emails, but that might be a bit more problematic to have all of our client related emails searched and cataloged for terms. Since social media postings within the enterprise are theoretically all open to the entire population, this is probably much easier to digest.
Theoretically, it should really not be all that hard to do. I mean, all you’re doing is having a search engine run in the background for a specific set of terms, and counting the number of occurrences. This can yield an emotion indicator that given the size of your organization probably does have some statistical degree of accuracy. Especially if you have discussion boards that allow employees to ask about the organization and what’s going on, you’ll certainly have some good data based on the language people are using. I’m sure there are linguists out there that can help translate the overall mood based on language and word choice, even though conversations may not be intended to display any mood at all.
What intrigues me is the almost real time nature of this tracking. Rather than running the employee engagement survey once a year or quarter, you could have this assessment on a daily or weekly basis, again depending on the number of employees and the volume of traffic on your enterprise social media sites. While I have no idea if there is currently software out there that does this stuff, the possibilities seem to be quite simple and realistic. HA!! If anyone does it, let me know.
- Brown, Dan (2009). “The Lost Symbol.” New York, Doubleday. [back]