Several years ago I was going to fly with a friend who'd never been on a plane before. He told me what he hated most about the idea of flying was that he wasn't "in control." This was a person who never let anyone else drive the car because he only trusted himself to make the split-second decision to swerve or brake should trouble strike.
In helping him try to manage his anxiety, I joked that maybe I should set him up with one of those children's car seat things where they have a toy steering wheel and stick shift so they can pretend like they're driving. He said he thought it might make him feel better because then he'd at least have the illusion of controlling the plane.
I thought of this story as I contemplated Dick Carlson's recent post reflecting on the challenge of implementing social media in the enterprise, which seems to hinge in large part on the idea of "control" or, more specifically, the illusion of control. Those organizations most resistant to implementing social media also seem to be those most hung up on the idea that they must control everything that is being said and done, both in and out of the organization.
The problem with organizations, social media and the idea of control is that organizations are focusing on controlling access to social media. They act as though their company-owned computers are the only way an employee can get online. I hate to break it to you, but that's not true.
- The majority of American households have Internet, so if they want to, your employees can access social media after hours and on weekends.
- Many of your employees also have their own laptops and WiFi connections that they can use to connect during lunch hours or even, unbelievably, during work.
- Proxy servers are another way to get around your blocks, especially if your IT department isn't as sophisticated as you think.
Controlling access to social media is increasingly becoming a fool's game--a waste of time and effort. And it's not only a waste of YOUR time, but a waste for workers, too. If 22 years of parenting have taught me nothing else, it's that the greatest goad to human ingenuity is telling someone "you can't do that." Considerable time and creativity will be expended in proving you wrong. That's what happens when you try to control access, rather than creating an environment where people are encouraged to engage in the behaviors you want them to choose--also a lesson I learned from parenting.