Thursday, March 17

Informal Learning, Blogs, and Corporations

One of the prime rules of blogging has to be that good information can come from just about any source. While going through my email, I decided to click on what was obviously an unsolicited newsletter from a vendor. The concept of an enterprise wiki sucked me in. I'm not sold on that idea.

But what did make me want to blog was ideas raised in another article in the newsletter entitled Three Rules for Sharing Informal Knowledge. The author suggests that the three defining qualities of information found in blogs (which IMHO would have been the better title for the article) are:

  1. Immediacy
  2. Interactivity
  3. Informality

He then goes on to say:

When companies start to take seriously the idea that something written in an informal tone can be just as valuable as something that has been copy edited and when they start to get comfortable with the self-correcting effect that comes when knowledge workers share information they will be amazed how much more powerful their information resources will be.

I think he hits on a couple of concepts that are barriers to adoption by most organizations. First, corporate control of information. There have been several recent articles companies trying to control blogs/bloggers (Apple suing bloggers for releasing information on Tiger or the Delta flight attendant fired for blogging about her travels.) I'm not going to weigh in on right or wrong, but leave it at I don't think many companies, particularly their legal departments are ready to relinquish control of information.

A second barrier i think is more problematic - listening. Most organizations, corporations especially, are focused on honing their message down to laser beam accuracy to have greatest impact on their target market. Talk to anyone in marketing or sales and they'll tell you about the effort that goes into getting the message right for a relatively small group of consumers. Building a mindset that then turns to it employees and welcomes unfettered dissent just isn't going to happen overnight. If at all.

The self-correcting effect that the author refers to is true, but takes time. Lots of time, in some cases. I haven't seen too many books on corporate strategy recently that have been advocating a "slow down, relax, you've got plenty of time" approach.

All this said, I still agree that any company who can overcome these barriers and successfully tap into the wealth of information available to it in informal channels will clobber its competitors. Agree? Disagree? Speak up! Hit the comment button below.

PS - To read great commentary on the latest ruling in Apple v. Doe (and blogging at it's best) check out morons.org.

3 comments:

jay said...

See The Cluetrain Manifesto. It is free. It is one of the best books on marketing from the last century. (April 1999).

"A powerful global conversation has begun. Through the Internet, people are discovering and inventing new ways to share relevant knowledge with blinding speed. As a direct result, markets are getting smarter—and getting smarter faster than most companies."

"These markets are conversations. Their members communicate in language that is natural, open, honest, direct, funny and often shocking. Whether explaining or complaining, joking or serious, the human voice is unmistakably genuine. It can't be faked."

"Most corporations, on the other hand, only know how to talk in the soothing, humorless monotone of the mission statement, marketing brochure, and your-call-is-important-to-us busy signal. Same old tone, same old lies. No wonder networked markets have no respect for companies unable or unwilling to speak as they do."

Formal used to be proper, high-fallutin', and polite. Now it's pretentious, priggish, and stilted. When it comes from the spin doctors, it's deceptive. Informal is now preferred, for it is open, direct, unadorned and sincere.

I have recommended this book to hundreds of people. It has passed into the mainstream. Rage Boy's sequel, Gonzo Marketing, even made it into Harvard Business Review.

Honesty is the best policy, and an informal, transparent style is its best means of expression.

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