Conversations in Area A
Much of the literature around the impact and opportunity of social software within an organisation focuses on hierarchy and control. The argument goes that social software subverts traditional hierarchies by providing an open communication platform in which all members of an organisation can communicate directly with the market.
In short, the traditional roles of consumer, employee, citizen, taxpayer and shareholder have all become blurred and intertwined, stripped back to what they really are: people (Cook, 2008)
As profound as this may sound, especially when it’s printed in a textbook, isn’t that just common sense? Organisations have always been about people. Markets have always been about people. Technology has always been about people. Businesses who have forgotten that have done so at their peril.
The idea that shared decision-making leads to increased engagement is not new to me. As a teacher, I had the great privilege of being involved with the Te Kotahitanga Project, which is aimed at raising the educational achievement of Maori students by increasing their engagement. Teachers were coached through the process of ‘repositioning’ by changing their practice from traditional discursive methods (teacher decides what students need to know and imparts knowledge to them) to facilitation methods where students co-construct knowledge. Student engagement improved. Student achievement improved. The world did not become flat. Although one tier of the hierarchy changed, hierarchical structures within the school remained the same, and the school was still bound by the constraints of the Ministry of Education.
Working in an environment with a more positive culture and greater engagement is fantastic, but it doesn’t make the world flat. Someone always has to be in charge, but the way they do their job will largely determine the culture of the organisation, and therefore, the nature of the conversations inside area A.
Should organisations fear the publication of the conversations from area A? I don’t think so. A business is as good as the people it employs. Listening to these people is as important as listening to its customers. If new technologies facilitate these conversations, all the better.