I am halfway through reading this book written by my friend Soumitra Dutta and his associate Matthew Fraser- “Throwing Sheep in the Boardroom”. I have been generally cynical of books written on some current trends proclaiming to be the next “how to” manual. Its with this attitude that I started reading the book. I must admit I had to swallow my cynicism as the book is thoroughly enjoyable.
Picture this- Jimmy Wales who writes the foreword for this book draws comparisons between HR professionals getting paranoid abut employees misusing the employee handbook in the organization wiki, and being completely in control to deal with a situation where an employee demonstrates some ridiculous behaviour like pouring coffee over a colleague. This book brings out areas that business professionals would feel reluctant to use and deploy social media but would be greatly benefitted if they did. It talks about the way some of these social networks are transforming our lives. The narrative is simple but pretty insightful and thought provoking. The very fact that half-way through the book I feel compelled to pen down my thoughts and share with people, many of them unknown on a public medium should be testimony enough!!
One of the reasons, opine the authors, that these social networks, be in Facebook or Myspace are so popular (almost compulsive for people who participate in them) is because they give vent to a spontaneous expression of the self, that is restrained at the workplace, no matter how “casual and cool” the organization you work for is.
Whether the motivation to join the social networking bandwagon is rational or irrational, the fact remains that markets today are no longer captive to traditional business models. Budding writers no longer need a big publisher’s back up to come out with a book (though it sure helps!!), nor do creative entrepreneurs need traditional funding avenues to fuel their ideas. It’s a marketplace where the power is shifted to the consumer. Even Facebook, that introduces concepts that are unacceptable to its users is forced to retract within days of launching.
The one thing that fascinates me about this “power of collaboration” that’s taking over every field of work we are in is its impact on “structured hierarchies” in organizations, and in challenging traditional roles that people have come to accept as the norm. I find a lot of organizations and even senior managers wanting to appear cool, talk a lot about adopting Web 2.0 methodologies and platforms in their organizations, but when it comes to sharing knowledge and collaborating, which is the essence of social networking, most don’t walk the talk. Like Soumitra says, “Knowledge sharing and mass collaborations are nifty management concepts but in the real world where human nature meets organizational behaviour, people behave according to their basic survival instincts.” The issue isn’t really with the technology we have or the platforms existing, but in the people who manage them. Thankfully for every paranoid manager, there is also one that doesn’t shy away from “throwing sheep”…sometimes in the boardroom!
I am excited at the prospect of participating in a blog camp this weekend (see http://wiki.ibnms.com/BlogCampDelhi2), where the agenda, the speakers and the participants all are nominated through a process of collaboration. Would be interesting to see how that translates into action in the real world!