The Business Case for Social Networking: Page 2

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The big picture here is that these tools are a timely opportunity to replace the incredibly costly communication habits of meetings, training, e-mail and business travel with very cost-effective social networking.

In a controlled economy like the old Soviet Union -- you know, the kind that inevitably collapses under the weight of its inefficiencies -- everything happens by mandate. The information is sent to the top. The leaders make the decisions. Orders are handed down. People at the bottom follow the orders or end up in a labor camp.

The leaders decide to increase the consumption of rye bread this year by 3.5%, so the orders are sent down from Moscow, and the bakers go through the motions to comply.

This is how enterprises work internally. The whole culture of meetings, mandatory training and e-mail is based on the Soviet model. Everyone is so busy following mandates and covering their own behind that the culture of innovation, creating thinking and rapid execution of goals is suppressed.

In a capitalist economy, the information remains at the bottom. Decisions are made at the bottom. And the success of the economy depends on the availability of information to the decision-makers at the bottom.

The baker notices that people aren't really buying rye bread anymore, but are really starting to gravitate toward sourdough. Great! Let's offer three new kinds of sourdough. Use the Internet to study traditional European methods, plus learn about how a burgeoning subculture of innovative new sourdough breads are taking off in San Francisco and Oregon farmer's markets, and learn from them.

People want sourdough? I'll give them the best sourdough in the city, and beat my competition.

This is how capitalism works, and how enterprises should work internally. Notice how the information is flowing here. The person at the bottom of the economic system is achieving his or her own goals, and going and finding information that's freely but passively available. The training is self-directed. The communication happens on an as-needed basis. Those with the required knowledge are findable, and contactable. Actual contact happens only when the knowledge can be put to use.

Now is the ideal time for enterprise social networking to take hold. We're coming out of a brutal recession, humbled by the excesses and wasteful spending that nearly wrecked the global economy.

It's time to re-think all the waste, and embrace efficient alternatives. Some meetings, training, e-mail and business travel are necessary. But most of it represents real money wasted.

It's time to replace Soviet-style corporate mandated communication with American-style free-flowing innovation in the form of social networking tools from Google, Microsoft and others.

At least, that's what an economist would advise.


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