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I had yesterday one of many great conversations with Luis Suarez on Twitter, during the online chat organized by CMSWire around social business. The subject was, you might guess it, about the main challenges encountered when helping organizations to embrace a collaborative mindset.
Transparency, of course, is a key driver here, but fostering transparency throughout a company not only is a real challenge, but also, if not nurtured in the right context, could sometimes prove itself more harmful than profitable by itself. Just imagine how would an employee behave, as the world stands, when, in name of transparency, he stumbles on highly strategic topics… Which answer can companies give to what could be considered as a major threat? The first, obvious, option is to limit transparency and to enforce a strict governance to the way information is flowing internally. This is what many organizations are doing right now, trying to enable collaboration at some layers, while staying within a command and control mindset.
Another option is to educate employees, to help them understand what should be kept inside the walls of the organization, and what can be shared in the wild. Most of today’s successful, or promising, social business initiatives have chosen this option, setting up Internal and external social media policies, limiting the scope of unshared knowledge, trying to ease the cohabitation of collaborative networks and key hierarchical structures. Consider for example the way BASF successfully nurtures internal communities. But, on the other hand, these organizations are in some way approaching a social sound barrier.
Outside of enterprise, our life is mainly made of struggles. People struggle with a tough economical context, in which, for more and more of them, each month passed is a small victory. States struggle with a sky-high level of debt which impedes sustainable politics. We struggle with the guy next door, who cuts in front of us when driving, who jostles you to be first to get in. We struggle with administration, so often deaf-and-dumb to our requests and needs. In a world where well-being more and more requests endorsing an individualistic and warlike behavior, transparency is way too opaque a concept to thrive into our organizations.
Transparency is in fact the visible doll from a Matryoshka set. Trying to leverage it requests us to restore a mutual and reciprocal trust inside organizations, which, in turn, necessitates us to instil passion into work, as passion drives trust and confidence. But starting such a virtuous circle is a more than a tough challenge in a world where class solidarities have been dismantled, and where employees are more and more disengaged. There is no radical remedy to this industrial disease, but to avoid social business to get stalled at the stage of promise, and in order to restore trust, companies must start understanding they are in part accountable for the present state of human relationships. Actually, most of the obstacles encountered in work environment are nothing but a reflection, and a catalyst, of a much more universal condition. Progressing further on the path toward the collaborative enterprise means mutating from leadership to fellowship, and reconciling social business with its original definition.