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.
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.
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:
- Don’t try to change the system from within – i.e. trying to bring a change by going through established and outdated processes.
- 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.
- Increase their knowledge and understanding of what you are trying to bring about, share tools, passion, ideas, frustrations.
- 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.
- Make sure the ‘alternative ways’ are not grabbed by the system’s people and turned into their version of inflexible and ossified processes.
- Rinse, lather and repeat – 2 or 3 times helps but once already feels good.
- 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’.