I’m preparing slides for my workshop tomorrow and settled on this one, encapsulating the dilemmas of the Social Age: do the pressures of command and control trump the need to share and narrate? It’s really about inward and outward pressures on organisations struggling to define their stance on knowledge and innovation, creativity and control, a struggle to retain relevance as the nature of work and learning shift around them.
In the Social Age, it’s our ability to create meaning that counts, and that ability is predicated upon our ability to use our knowledge, to search effectively, to be adept at winkling out relevance and to create (and co-create) meaning, in and alongside our communities. Whilst organisations require a certain amount of control to safeguard intellectual and physical property and to meet legal or regulatory requirements, they often go beyond what is necessary and lock things down simply as policy. They become highly risk averse, without realising that there is very little risk but that what they are doing is squeezing out the very space we need for agility.
There were lots of words that i could have used in the outward arrows: narration and sharing are just two. Generosity is a key outward facing trait to thrive in the Social Age, as is one’s ability to challenge and offer support. The ability to earn trust and to trust others, but also to be agile enough to gauge risk in online spaces, the ability to be safe.
If you look on people’s Twitter profiles, you’ll see that they often say ‘views are my own, not those of my employer‘, and yet how do those views differ? Clearly the more formal the space, the more self moderating we are, but do we moderate out the value? I mean, the kind of people i follow on Twitter are, on the whole, people who add value, whose opinion i respect. They are saying things that are relevant to me. If they curate their social presence so effectively as to be magnetic, what are they doing differently for work? Dumbing down to stay safe?
There are plenty of organisations that recognise this changing dynamic and actively foster engagement, sharing and narration: organisations that recognise that knowledge, in itself, may no longer be enough. If an organisation wants to attract and retain the very best talent, they have to recognise the new reality, that people care about things and want to use technology to amplify their voices. I was talking to a friend recently about his annual performance review, where the subject came up of what role he may take next. One of his bosses had said to another: ‘you do realise that he does this outside of work too‘. This is the reality of agile workers, artisan workers in the Social Age: they care about what they do, they use technology to access their communities, to access knowledge, to create meaning, and they do that in social and formal spaces, it’s often their work and their play.
We can create a career around out interests rather than conforming to the career path mapped out by the organisation: after all, if they’re not giving you a job for life, who else is responsible for your learning if it’s not you?
Control, command, in this context, just becomes oppressive: you iron out the very creativity and instinct to share that you need for success. Agile organisations create spaces for agile workers to inhabit: they strike a balance between control and sharing, they recognise that being generous pays back tenfold. Agile organisations can adapt and flex far more easily, because they’ve rehearsed those skills every day. Inflexible, process or systems heavy organisations crumble under this pressure. Organisations that are unable to balance the formal and informal drivers within their business will simply drive out talent.
This is the nature of work in the Social Age: you have to share to succeed.