Monday, July 23, 2007

Enterprise Transparency and Collaboration in a 2.0 World

Organisations that view the world through traditional conservative lenses are squandering their most valuable asset.

This recent article ( highlights the growing concern about outbound e-mail communication and now Web 2.0 collaborations like wikis, blogs, discussion boards, etc. Organisations should shed the archaic, draconian controlling mindset and “open up” to social collaboration. At the board and executive levels companies tout the virtues of transparency and collaboration but the shackles of political opaqueness and protecting self-interests still dominate corporate culture.

Web 2.0 is all about collaboration and encouraging everyone to participate and contribute in discussions and debates about everything. Obviously, there is appropriate and inappropriate content. Most users are reasonably aware of what is acceptable or unacceptable in the workplace and yes, there will always be those that intentionally and/or maliciously abuse any system. But these fringe cases can be governed by policy and process. Collaboration groups or communities are also self-governing. By giving members the ability to tag content as inappropriate the community can encourage self-regulation.

Raising fear, uncertainty and doubt levels by highlighting the risks of openness invokes the wrong mindset and is a bad approach. Suppressing the workforce’s ability to collaborate within organisations is throwing out the baby with the bathwater. Participation levels in social networks like myspace and facebook is growing astronomically. Organisations must ask themselves, “Why are so many people participating in social networks?” and “By definition, is the workplace a place designed for social collaboration?” If so, is the suppression of collaborative communication counter-productive? What are organisations that don’t “open up” actually saying about their staff and their relationships with one another? The message can only be perceived as negative:

“We don’t have trust.”
“Your opinion or thoughts are not important.”
“You’ll embarrass the company.”
“You’ll abuse the privilege.”

All bad…

Alternatively, by establishing some simple policies and guidelines for use (nothing to onerous please) organisations can unleash volumes of information and knowledge allowing everyone to engage more deeply with each other and the organisation itself. Moreover, the information generated could point the organisation towards new directions by highlighting internal inefficiencies, customer trends and market opportunities. Improved social collaboration will also stimulate organisational innovation. This can all happen without increasing costs.

The advantages of collaboration on social networking platforms are significant. Imagine if your organisation were to loosen the reigns enough to allow your “most valuable asset” to contribute more to the organisations business objectives and to evolve organisational culture to the 21st Century. Face it, it’s inevitable… people are already collaborating, blogging, networking, etc. You can’t beat it, so join it and reap the rewards!