Many of the conversations i have in organisations are around engagement, around innovation, around culture. The focus is generally how we generate momentum, generate change. It’s easy to focus on the symptoms, without diagnosing the issue: technology may bring us together, but it does not make a coherent community. Strong leadership may give direction, but it doesn’t necessarily earn trust. Underneath everything is a dynamic of ownership and power: who controls whom? Less about how engagement is desired: more about how it is earned.
With the widespread experimentation in socially collaborative modes of working, where we engage community to help us succeed, we will increasingly have to consider the question of ‘who owns the conversation’.
Time and conversations are different things: my time you can buy in hours, but conversations flow. As we move outside the formal, we cannot assume that models of ownership persist. This is not simply a matter of money: it’s a matter of pride, of control, of fairness. People bring more than their time to a conversations, and we need to recognise contribution with more than money: and as we move beyond, above, simple, transactional purchases of time, we will have to consider ownership and control of conversations.
As our communities become more active, as the problem solving becomes more effective, as the community coheres, who will own it? We can’t mistake technology for space: conversations are highly fluid, agile, mobile. Just because we impart the initial momentum into a community, does not mean that we own the conversation.
Several times last week i spoke to groups carrying out semantic analysis of the chatter in corporate communication channels: aggregated data gleaned from the social chatter of the organisation. It’s becoming ever easier to do that, but that does not make it right to do. Just because we can, does not mean that we should.
Much of the balance in a Socially Dynamic Organisation will come through dialogue, through fairness and evolution. If we want to learn from the conversations within the organisation, we should ask a permission to do so. If we assume that our ownership of space means ownership of words, we risk damaging engagement.