Real learning is a part of the work, not apart from it.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Hook 'em When They're Young

In the late 1980's the R.J. Reynold's tobacco company used a cartoon Joe Camel character to market it's cigarettes. The company received heavy criticism for what was seen as an insidious effort to get children to start smoking early> create a habit> get addicted >stay a smokers for life... a life which we know would be greatly shortened. Well, if it was an intentional effort, it was highly unethical but made business sense. However in a not so a devious way I think a similar pattern is best with extending, not shortening the life of a company - by making "Social" an organizational habit. The key too is to start when the organization is young.

Big Ships Turn Slowly, If At All

Like adults who are not as easily hooked on cigarettes, larger, established organizations are not easily swayed by new ideas and approaches. Many, locked in command and control structures (and successful by it) will never fully transform into an open and transparent organization; the utopian promise of social. They may see pockets of success but those will ebb and flow with inevitable turnover and org restructures tied to short-term market losses that typically plague bigger, private organizations. However I do think that most of these businesses will ultimately be transformed, not by internal social tools but by external social pressures. 

Just the opposite, when supported early in an organization's life, social tools can be used to actually promote the attitude of "that's not what we do here", especially when what is not done here are things like establishing rigid hierarchies, petty politics, hoarding knowledge, and imposing strangling policies. An organization that starts and remains connected is at a great advantage to stave off the unnecessary and demoralizing. Social tools, which make the invisible visible, serve as a buffer to preserve the norms that existed when the organization was founded. Forever within social tools can be found the conversations and living constitution that will guide the organization going forward and the history that pulls it back to center when pressure arises.

When picked up early a social addiction is a hard monkey to shake. Openness and transparency become a powerful habit maintained into adulthood
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