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A report from the corporate front with the internet open communications. If you detect a hint of frustration or god forbid sarcasm, it’s just my impatient nature. Obviously.

  • The benefits of decentralised communications and human conversation are explained to people within corporations – PR, marketing, communications, executive types, you named it – anyone who’s interested and would listen.
  • They see the point, even get excited, add their two cents and…
  • …after a few months embark on a cautious attempt to think of a ‘project’ that would achieve ‘decentralised communications and human conversation’ as a deliverable and with appropriate metrics.
  • After many back and forths regarding details, scenarios, possibilities, objections, identifications of risks (e.g. an errand asteroid hitting the earth) and occasionally opportunities, the ‘project’ proceeds at a snail pace.
  • A flurry of meetings, conference calls, emails with grown-up attachments ensues punctuated with conversations that restore some of the passion for the idea.
  • A first practical implementation appears – like a snowdrop on a barren ground with grey patches of old snow.
  • After a few more pushes and rays of sunshine from the outside (i.e. competitors embarking on something similar), the people involved are spurred to further action.
  • The finishing line is nigh, but compliance/legal/IT/little green men magically appear on the scene raising more objections than a lawyer in a discrimination case.
  • A killer objection is suddenly identified by the people who have been involved from the start and supported the idea. Example: We can’t talk openly about the problems we face and put our side of the story because that would look too negative. We need to be more positive and talk about our achievements and opportunities and rephrase our ‘about section’ or re-purpose our strategy/objective/perspective.

Arrrghh.

I have heard a similar argument several times by now and last night a friend of mine faced the same objection to a project that is brilliant and almost up and running. His frustration was palpable.

It eludes to some people that the internet is already providing the ‘one place’ where others can find anything about anything. Pretending that the bad stuff is not out there is no way to protect someone’s image. Or pretending that the image the world sees is the one they are presenting of themselves. Image silos are down just as much as the communications silos. Credibility is a function of several things – transparency, speed of response, expertise and authentic voice. By admitting to mistakes or addressing others’ mistaken perception of actions, companies can demonstrate two things – confidence in their own identity and respect for their audience by not shoving anodyne and watered down versions of it. Otherwise, others will do it for you.

Regret_the_error

But let’s not be beastly, let’s be positive and practical. A few tips for those who find themselves in a situation where the organisation is their worst enemy:

  1. Don’t try to change the system from within – i.e. trying to bring a change by going through established and outdated processes.
  2. Find people inside the organisation who understand both how important and good such change is and the original reason behind processes that are stopping it.
  3. Increase their knowledge and understanding of what you are trying to bring about, share tools, passion, ideas, frustrations.
  4. Gradually connect these people in a network that will amplify their ability to make things happen ‘under the radar’, i.e. bypassing the dysfunctional processes and in effect creating alternative ways of doing things.
  5. Make sure the ‘alternative ways’ are not grabbed by the system’s people and turned into their version of inflexible and ossified processes.
  6. Rinse, lather and repeat – 2 or 3 times helps but once already feels good.
  7. Wave good bye to ‘business cases’ and say hello to ‘case studies’ i.e. ‘this is how we have done it and all we want is to enable everyone else to do something similar if they wish’.

Good luck.

Quote to remember

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When information has meaning it can become knowledge, and that is perhaps the most important process humankind has ever practised, to learn.

Why is it then that our current most modern Meaning Economy is a text box dictatorship?

Open open open! Open source, open distributed grids, open algorithms, open rankings, open networks of people cooperating to provide resources. The future of search is in open cooperation (and competition) based on a Meaning Economy, create meaning, exchange meaning, serve meaning.

- Jeremy Miller in The Meaning Economy  via Doc Searls

Thresher meme hits again

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Quote to remember

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The key question in organizations is not the typical one — how do you
motivate people or engage people? It’s how do you keep
management from destroying motivation?
- David Sirota, co-author of The Enthusiastic Employee: How Companies Profit by Giving Workers What They Want

Hydra of Web 2.0 adoption

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This is very relevant and nicely summed up. The stages vary for different company but as long as the end state is the same, let’s not be dogmatic about it. :)

  1. "We have wikis, internally"
  2. "We have blogs, internally"
  3. "We have employees who write blogs"
  4. "We have employees who write blogs, hosted upon a corporate blog server"
  5. "All our press releases are posted on the blogserver and have a RSS feed"
  6. "Several of our CxOs have got blogs"
  7. "The CEO has a blog and actually writes his own postings"
  8. "We have wikis, externally, and allow employees to modify them"
  9. "We have employees who read and comment upon blogs of their peers, partners and customers"
  10. "We assign our employees a significant percentage of time to write, read and comment on blogs"
  11. "We have wikis, externally, and allow anyone to modify them"
  12. "We stopped writing press releases, and started communicating with people instead"
  13. "We wash our corporate laundry in public on the blogserver"
  14. "We disabled AJAX hyperlink popups,
    realising they are evil"
  15. "We fired our public relations and marketing staff, realising they are no longer relevant"

The stages above operate against the backdrop of Parallel reinvention and management argumentation:

  1. we don’t need this
  2. who’ll pay for it
  3. here’s our solution we bought it and people will use it irrespective that it sucks
  4. oh to hell with it let them do what they want
  5. management adoption of the field’s preferred tool

And the whole things should be capped with words of Doc Searls

I don’t use the term "Web 2.0" either. When asked a
long time ago to define what it meant to me, I said it’s the name we’ll
give to the next crash.

The human need to increase what we know, and to
help each other do the same, is what the Net at its best is all about.
Yeah, it’s about other things. But it needs to be respected as an
accessory to our humanity. And terms like "social media", forgive me,
don’t do that. (At least not for me.)

It don’t do that for me either.

Obvious, isn’t it?

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Euan hits a nail on the head, yet again:

A key differentiator for businesses in the future will be their ability
to attract high quality online networks of interesting and engaged
users of their product or service and then delivering access to those
networks to their new customers.

  • Author: Adriana
  • Published: Mar 18th, 2007
  • Category: Quotes
  • Comments: 1

Quote to remember

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In other words, when you boast of how smart you are, when smarts has
nothing to do with winning or losing,  you look pretty fcuking dumb.

I don’t know what I’d say if I were Microsoft now. I would try to
divest in the system that produced Vista as much as I possibly could.
When a big tree falls, it creates room for new growth. It takes a long
time for a tree the size of Microsoft to fall on its own. And it’s very
hard for an exec at such a company to make big parts of it fall before
they have to.

- Dave Winer on Microsoft

via Jackie

The show must go on…

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The music industry has been one of the single most shortsighted,
foolishly run, lawyer fed industries in this country, and I am a member
of it, being a professional musician for the last 30 years. Perhaps if
the industry wasn’t so interested in the ONE demographic they think
will spend money, and catered even just a little bit to the REST of the
music interested world, they wouldn’t be in this situation. If you are
over 25, they don’t give a flying rat’s butt about what you want to
hear, or even what you will pay for. They just don’t care if you aren’t
in the 13-25 year old demographic. And so, when the kids who grew up
with computers can outsmart the old idiots running the RIAA without
even trying, I can only laugh. Too bad they insist on destroying not
only everyone trying to actually get MUSIC out to people, but their
audience, too.

Yeah. Note the role of advertising in all this.

Social impact of the web revisited

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Tell me, I’ll forget
Show me, I’ll remember
Involve me, I’ll understand

- a Chinese proverb

In a revolutionary mood

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Disruptives of the world unite! You have only your hierarchies to lose.

The social impact of the web – talk at RSA

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Last Thursday I got up unusually early for my now permanently jet-lagged body and mind to go to an event at the Royal Society of Arts called The Social Impact of the Web on society, government and politics. The main worthy was George Osborne, MP who talked about open source politics. I will blog my opinions on his speech* later but most people present were gushing about it. I wasn’t that enthusiastic but that’s only to be expected with my Samizdata credentials. :)
 

The Royal Society of ArtsThe Royal Society of Arts

RSA entranceThe social impact of the web

It was good to see familiar faces, Mick Fealty and Ewan McIntosh on the stage and Lloyd Davis, Suw Charman and Guido Fawkes in the audience. Guido as always puts his boot in:

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By comparison, my talk was positively tame. I decided to sum up the impact of the web in three levels, touching on democracy, authority, the individual, technology.

Much has been made out of the ‘democratic nature of the web’. Democracy has two meanings – open access and in that sense the web is democratic as anyone can access, publish and distribute information on the web. Then there is democracy as the rule of majority and this is where it does not apply to the web. What I do on the web is not ‘democratic’ in a sense that it is dictated by the majority. Nobody tells me what to put on my blog, there is no vote with results imposed on me.
   
First level of impact is the individual. We have heard about the power of the individual to do this or that online, all true. Individuals often have more control over the online environment than off-line. Paradoxically, many commentators bemoan the fact that people online are self-obsessed, they talk about the echo chamber. At the same time, they also complain about the lack of awareness, sophistication and professionalism of online interactions. Both may be (and are) true but this points to something else that is going on – people are learning something. They are learning self-determination and unlearning decades of one-way communication and mass broadcasting. The ability to express and respond to things on their own terms and their own way is what this is about. And in some senses, autonomy is a more meaningful definition of freedom as it entail my freedom to do many things essential to my identity.

The second level is what is happening to authority and institutions. Authority based on information asymmetry is shifting as information is freely accessible. I could talk for hours on the meaning of authority in distributed networks and emergence of credibility and reputation but to tie it back to politics – parties are like TV channels. If the party politics doesn’t offer me a forum for debate, the web is more than a viable alternative. On the web I can easily bypass someone else’s platform and debate on my own terms. When we blog on Samizdata.net, we do it with the explicit intention to write about things in a way that we don’t find anywhere in MSM. So to address George Osborne’s invitation – why would we want to ‘rejoin’ a political debate in somebody else’s controlled space..?
   
Technology has been mentioned today, in the context of the web it has shown how to line up resources behind individuals not just institutions.

The web has made mockery of mass communication that is vainly groping for a better form of communication using terms like personalisation. The bottom-line, as they say, is that an institution cannot communicate with individuals as a collective entity. It must do so as a collection of individuals with their own voices. The emergent ‘collectivity’ is predicated on the ability of individual within it to communicated autonomously and freely. This means that on the second level, the web goes some way to redressing the balance between the system and the individual.

The third level and the one that interests me most is looking to the web for new model of organisation/structure/system. The internet can be seen as a Petri dish, with cultures growing free from the existing political and social pressures (at least initially), transplanting and creating its own protocols, rules and etiquette. Some of it is re-discovery of pre-industrial age stuff, some of it is new. For example, in commerce, new business models are emerging, open source, the long tail, VRM, demand side supplying itself, networks and power laws driving more. In communications, we have multi-tasking, attention-span and focus shifting and other behaviours facilitated by technology.

The pre-internet age was the age of mass production that was based on the age of engineering. This was a time when complex problems called for complex solutions. To build a bridge is a feat of complexity. Computing and the internet have brought about another type of complexity, which is based on the realisation that a few simple rules can lead to complexity. For example, the internet is a ’stupid network’ with one simple rule – move packets from one end to another and then some. What we see today was built on one of the simplest architectures around, but with inbuilt flexibility and rules to allow complexity. The same applies to the social aspects of the web.
 

Back to democracy – as Churchill pointed out, it is the least bad system of government we know, perhaps the internet holds a key to an organisation that establishes the balance between the individual, the society and its institutions. This is essential as for me the knowledge, creativity, innovation, morality and all things social start with the individual.

*text courtesy of Ewan McInstosh who got it from Osborne’s parliamentary aide.

The Top reasons you need a PR Firm

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Head Lemur explains why companies still need PR. A must read in these turbulent days. My favourite is:

You make shitty products.
Face it, whatever you thought you were doing that put you into business
in the first place, you have discarded that ideal, and have compromised
yourself to profitability over satisfaction.
PR will be happy to help you.
"Yes the Oil Spill covered 100 miles of coastline, But there are 250,000 miles of coastline that are still clean"

Priceless.

 

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