You’re not going to design an air­plane on Face­book. But that doesn’t mean social net­working tools don’t play a role in the devel­op­ment of new prod­ucts, from new doughnut fla­vors all the way up to the new Boeing 787 Dreamliner.

We’re not talking about Face­book. We’re talking about building a col­lab­o­ra­tive model to help advance what people in com­pa­nies are already doing,” said Amy Kenly, the keynote speaker at Friday’s Col­lab­o­ra­tive Inno­v­a­tive Net­works Con­fer­ence. The event was spon­sored by the Insti­tute for Global Inno­va­tion Man­age­ment.

Kenly, the global director of emi­nence and strategic com­mu­ni­ca­tions at Kalypso, an inno­va­tion and product-​​development con­sulting firm, said the inher­ently social nature of product devel­op­ment makes it a prime can­di­date for new tech­nolo­gies. That might mean using existing plat­forms like Face­book or Twitter to engage with inter­ested con­sumers or building an in-​​house plat­form where devel­opers can post updates and seek feed­back on the latest iter­a­tion of a product in development.

But, while com­pa­nies should “think big” about how social media tools could help them advance their cor­po­rate or insti­tu­tional goals, Kenly said, they need to start small.

Just because you’ve thought about these strate­gies and your CEO is on board doesn’t mean you should boil the ocean all at once,” Kenly said. “Finding that one starting point with your big goal still in mind is the way to go.”

The con­fer­ence, held in Raytheon Amphithe­ater, drew industry and aca­d­emic experts for a dis­cus­sion of the net­working tools used to foster col­lab­o­ra­tive inno­va­tion and an oppor­tu­nity to dis­cuss best prac­tices in the emerging field.

We’ve put together an exciting pro­gram with an eclectic group of speakers, and an eclectic audi­ence as well,” said Gloria Bar­czak, a pro­fessor of mar­keting at North­eastern and one of the conference’s orga­nizers. She serves as editor of the Journal of Product Inno­va­tion Man­age­ment.

That eclectic group fea­tured experts in fields like busi­ness, tech­nology, and net­work sci­ence, reflecting the fact that the solu­tion to many of today’s prob­lems is at the inter­sec­tion of dis­ci­plines, said Mar­jorie Platt, dean of fac­ulty at the D’Amore-McKim School of Business.

Though social tools are dra­mat­i­cally altering modern work­places, the dis­rup­tion they’re bringing isn’t nec­es­sarily new. Assis­tant pro­fessor Cuneyt Eroglu, whose work in the busi­ness school focuses on supply chain man­age­ment, said that even though the per­sonal com­puter entered the work­place in the 1980s, man­age­ment didn’t change much for nearly a decade. It wasn’t until the 1990s, Eroglu said, that busi­nesses started to realize that PCs required a mas­sive orga­ni­za­tional change to fully cap­ture their pro­duc­tivity potential.

It’s like a dance between tech­nology and orga­ni­za­tions,” Eroglu said. “First tech­nology will take a step, then the orga­ni­za­tions will … take a matching step.”

Sebas­tian Fixson, an asso­ciate pro­fessor at Babson Col­lege, studies inno­va­tion and rapid pro­to­typing with North­eastern assis­tant pro­fessor of tech­no­log­ical entre­pre­neur­ship Tucker Marion. At Friday’s con­fer­ence, Fixson argued that new social tools are bringing about per­haps the greatest shift in product design, man­u­fac­turing, and devel­op­ment since the Indus­trial Rev­o­lu­tion. He said con­sumers could play a much greater role in the devel­op­ment of what they’re looking to pur­chase, while com­pa­nies are able to col­lab­o­rate on a scale never before possible.

Take that Boeing 787 Dream­liner, for example. Despite the tech­no­log­ical issues that delayed its rollout, its devel­op­ment saw Boeing work with com­pa­nies around the globe, with new com­mu­ni­ca­tion tools allowing the com­pany to find the best sources for each com­po­nent of the plane. Tech­no­log­ical advances didn’t just allow Boeing to build a rev­o­lu­tionary new air­craft, but changed the way they were able to do that.

It’s not just the tech­nology, but it’s the ques­tion of how you orga­nize all that infor­ma­tion,” Fixson said.