When the Czarist autocracy was overthrown in the 1917 Russian revolution, fundamental changes in Russian society under the new political structure occurred. A fascinating example for me is that while most of the world was busy building out telephone communications infrastructure, the Soviets chose to focus on installing loudspeakers everywhere.
The goal of course was to tell the proletariat what to think; telephony throughout the old Soviet block era was limited and frequently bugged.
Later in the last century email swept the world, creating another wave of huge change in the way we communicate.
Email in the enterprise is closely monitored and lives forever – the ‘paper trail’ it leaves is valuable for legal discovery and disciplinary action.
However, in large enterprises many people believe their email is being read or bugged by management.
The result, whether management is eavesdropping or not, is that people are very careful what they say in large companies and avoid communicating contentious information by email, even speaking in code words.
It is therefore increasingly questionable how much useful information can be retrieved if the searchable content is bland and noncommittal.
The more cautious the formal communication, the more powerful the ad hoc ‘offline’ collaboration circles become.
One of the major challenges of implementing modern collaboration technologies inside the enterprise is enabling transparency that brings these circles back into the center.
Clearly some proprietary information should be tightly controlled and guarded, and providing satisfactory legal access to events and evidence should be carefully thought through.
However, another revolution has swept the world, making it flat.
A key enabler of globalization is communication and collaboration; exponential digital revolution technical advances increase the pace of change at an ever faster rate.
Utilizing the collective wisdom of employees is fundamental to the success of the enterprise. Providing the sophisticated tools young employees grew up with and expect to use for their work, and capturing the invaluable repositories of information from employees nearing retirement is increasingly essential to remain competitive.
For those organizations that chose to engage in arguing between silos while broadcasting information at their employees, a very uncertain future awaits.