I remember back in the day the anguish at receiving my FREE hundredth AOL CD-ROM in the mail. As if my mailbox didn’t already have enough junk in it. Back in the day, what a great repository of content AOL was. After about my 20th CD-ROM in the mail, I actually made the switch from CompuServe to the AOL network which was growing in ubiquity. The anguish was in seeing how insanely great the AOL walled-garden of content was, yet how troubling that their databases weren’t intelligent enough to know that as a subscriber- I did not need another annoying CD-ROM in my mailbox!
Then came the big worldwide-open WWW, and these pay-for-access walled gardens quickly lost their appeal in favor of a more open ‘net. Everything was going to be out in the open, our content, our music, our photos, ourselves and even the architectural diagrams and maps to our military bases. Huh, you say? A funny thing happened along the way to our new open and more transparent lives. MySpace, Facebook, and many of the publicly available social networks came around and taught us the dangers of putting ourselves on the web so completely. Something similar is happening to many organizations today, as they realize that “putting it all out there” isn’t such a bright idea. This “one step back” is the realization that you must engage openly in this new frontier, but that when we all have an opportunity to share bits and bytes of our organizations with the outside world-we mustn’t do so with reckless abandon.
This brings me back to the walled gardens, not the old AOLs, but the new social walled gardens of content being rolled-out by leading companies. Leading organizations are replacing their aging intranets with more robust and collaborative social networks and content repositories. In effect, they’re leveraging the brainpower of their people in more intelligent ways than their competitors in the market. These organizations are outsmarting the competition by inserting all of the best that working socially has to offer, while maintaining the control and security that their data and the business requires. I’d say- that’s one smart step back!
Alex is a co-founder and Managing Member of Collabor8 Learning, LLC, an instructional design and performance management consultancy. His firm collaborates with organizations to enhance the way they develop their people. To learn more about Collabor8 Learning, click here.