Giving up control

In an article titled Taking the Social Media Plunge: Learning to Let Go, Andy McAfee explores the reluctance of traditional organizations to embrace social media (and informal learning).

    Many organizations appear scared to death of Enterprise 2.0. They’re worried that people will use the new tools and accompanying freedom to broadcast hate speech or porn, or harass each other. They’re worried about secrets slipping over Chinese walls and firewalls. Or that people will be too critical or contrarian in public forums. That “social” is too close to “unproductive” or “time-wasting.”

    They’re worried, in short, about what will happen when they actually do empower their employees with the digital toolkit of Enterprise 2.0. They seem quite concerned about what will happen when they give demonstrably powerful tools to their most important assets.

Andy McAfee last year at DevLearn in San Jose

    Some of this hesitation is justified, at least for a bit. These tools really are something new under the sun, and it wasn’t initially clear if people would use them maturely, and for productive purposes. But virtually all the evidence I’ve seen over the years convinces me that people (whether employees, partners, or customers) can be trusted, and do predominantly use the new social software platforms in ways that provide benefit and credit to the companies that establish them.

    So I think the real reluctance comes from someplace else. I think it comes from a deep-seated desire to not give up control.

I agree with Andy on this. Unjustified distrust of workers denies corporations the benefits of networked learning and performance support.

Uptight senior managers are holding learning and development professionals back from doing what they know is right. Sad to say, Chief Learning Officers who tell us “We are not allowed to do that here” are stuck with a self-fulfilling prophesy.

At the Internet Time Alliance Retreat later this week, we’ll be devoting significant time to breaking through these barriers to progress. Please comment if you’ve got insights on this.

Andy and Jay

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