Who’s Afraid of Web 2.0? What to Do About It?
Posted by Bob Warfield on September 17, 2007
Richard MacManus writes that a lot of companies are afraid of what their employees might do with Web 2.0 over on Read/Write Web. Employees are also afraid of Web 2.0 and the impact it can have on their careers as they weigh whether to get involved with it or not in the line of business. I’m not surprised; it’s all about loss of control. The Web 2.0 by its very nature tends to empower a much broader audience, and can lead to defacto decentralization. It makes information available to a much broader audience, and it places the decision to disseminate the information as well as the exact form of the disclosure out into the organization. This is problematic for hierarchical thinkers.
To make matters worse, good Web 2.0 tools have very little friction. As Forrester says:
“Web 2.0 tools have almost certainly already entered your organization under the radar through unsanctioned employee usage. This raises the stakes and criticality of taking action sooner rather than later.”
Shades of John Carpenter’s movie The Thing, the paranoid realize that they’re already among us, sanctioned or not. They slide in as individuals take up blogging or departments deciding they want a Wiki. It happens gradually, as employees feel comfortable discussing things they think are innocuous in the club house atmosphere of a social networking site or blog community. Many feel they’re doing good things by getting the word out, and by and large they are. A few are those disaffected folks that are the bane of any organization. Now they’ve found an even more disasterous way to spread their poison, it isn’t just the water cooler chit chat, it’s the World Wide Web.
Have you considered the risk of unintentional disclosures? There was a recent flap about whether employers should ban Facebook for loss of productivity. Forget Facebook, let’s take a seamingly benign service like LinkedIn. It would be nearly impossible to ban LinkedIn. People use it to network and keep up with their contacts. It’s got a very business-professional feel about it. Who could be afraid of LinkedIn? Yet I’ve seen a variety of useful competitive intelligence go by on this venue. All it takes is a suspicious mind (mine is a product of too many trashy fiction novels!) and a little deductive thinking. Why did that person add SAP’s head of alliances to their LinkedIn contacts? Aha, those two are obviously talking! I’ve seen salespeople who are tireless networkers adding each and every prospect they meet as soon as they can to LinkedIn. Unscrupulous competitors would be all over that.
What’s the answer?
First let me be emphatic in saying the answer is not to try to ban Web 2.0! There are tools available to IT today and more coming I’m sure that will seek to eliminate access to Web 2.0 from inside the firewall. The antivirus world may morph to prevent outgoing meme viruses from unauthorized collaboration in the Web-o-sphere. It’s all poppycock. It sends entirely the wrong message to the staff and it is ultimately an arms race that cannot be won. Folks will connect and do these things from their home computers if necessary, or worse, the oppressive mentality that would foist such a policy on everyone will be one of many symptoms that leads the best people to move on.
You see people want to be empowered. Messages and policies that unempower discourage. The kinds of organizations that want completely rigid and centralized control like this are destined to be even less competitive than they already were (those who read the Business self-help books will recognize these companies were likely not missing from Tom Peters’ Search for Excellence). They will suffer the two pronged setbacks of discouraging and demotivating their employees and missing out on one of the great business tools of our day.
The alternative is to embrace Web 2.0. In fact, we can use the very tools of Web 2.0 to make sure our companies and employees learn to do the “right thing” with this powerful new medium. The Web 2.0 is all about collaboration, and it has some of the most powerful tools you will find to help get your people aligned and all singing the same verse. There is one other tool, much older than the Web 2.0 that also comes into play here.
I hate to leave you with a cliffhanger, but tune in to the next installment in a day or two and I’ll give you my list of Strategies to Create Responsible Web 2.0 Citizens in your company.
Facebook shipping something big? Things you can learn from people’s inadvertant Web 2.0 behaviour.