Social networking--and the media that is socialized, flowing through rivers of links, tags, feeds and bookmarks--is all the rage. MySpace, Facebook, Flickr, Digg and YouTube have become budding mainstream brands creating a new interaction dimension, especially among the digerati, and there are hundreds of other less well know and trafficed socialized sites germinating across the Web. In a recent post, Jerry Bowles looks at how social media fits into the corporate environment. He writes:
As much as we like to imagine otherwise, the average technology-aware CEO is less likely to view social media as a path to greater organizational collaboration and teamwork than as hidden weapons of a dangerous potential insurgency.
To believers and practitioners of traditional top-down, command-and-control, for-me-to-know-and-you-to-find-out management (which is to say most of the people who run large business organizations–even those who talk a good participatory game), blogs, wikis, social networking sites are IEDs littered along the road to organizational stability.
He goes on to say that the adoption of "architectures of participation" would require a revolutionary change in organizational dynamics:
...by giving lots of individuals a voice and audience through a networked platform–they force decisionmaking to be more transparent, democratic and consensus-based. Whether or not that is a positive thing for enterprises is fodder for legitimate debate, I think. Having nearly been trampled during the blowing up of the balloons on the night before Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade, I have zero faith in the wisdom of crowds.
In my experience, most leaders do not want to operate their organizations as experiments in democracy or collective intelligence. Not even our Presidents and Congresspeople want to do that. That’s why resistance to Enterprise Web 2.0 technologies is likely to be understated, but fierce, at the upper levels.
To gain a foothole, the new collaboration platform vendors are going to have to initially target already receptive areas like marketing, PR and corporate communications departments or divisions with specific projects which need networking and collaboration. Small projects, smaller budgets, no need to involve the CIO. Over time, who knows, if the technology proves safe and harmless enough, other departments will start demanding it.
As Leonard Cohen might put it: “First, we take Manhattan. Then we take Berlin.”