Mitigating the Fears of Open Communities


Share on LinkedIn

Last week I participated in NEWCOMM, the annual meeting of the Society for New Communication Research.
If you are not familiar with them, here’s how they describe themselves.
A global think tank dedicated to the advanced study of new communication tools, technologies and emerging modes of communication, and their effects on traditional media, professional communications, business, culture and society.
It is a challenge, of course, to sort through the unabated enthusiasm for new or social media and the view seen through rose colored glasses. Don’t get me wrong, enthusiast are essential when muddling through the wash between two waves. Their commitment and drive keeps the momentum going, rallies new troops and force issues to the surface.
One could say that most that of the discussions at this event raised more issues than they produced principles or practical insights.
However, several very profound points did emerge. One was brought to light by Ken Kaplan from Intel. Intel supports a number of very open, transparent communities where customers, employees, partners, and management interact freely. One of the major concerns about openness or transparency by many business leaders, is that uncontrolled freedom of discussion and opinion will lead to chaos. There is also a fear that it will contribute to unconstructive company bashing and that they might turn into a swarm of bad publicity.
The Intel experience points to quite a different result. The very freedom and openness that creates the concerns is what creates a sense of community. The community interacts for the overall benefit of the community and the community polices behavior that is malicious or destructive. Intel found that customers were often the first to challenge and temper examples of excessive negativity. They didn’t blindly defend the company but they did try to direct the conversation towards solutions. If this was not possible, they shut down the naysayer and the conversation. Why do they act this way? They want to gain better solutions to the challenges they face and have better experience with the products they have acquired.
What so profound in this behavior? The fear that a control type management mentality brings to the party. This perspective makes it hard to envision open communities functioning for their mutual good. It is easier to imagine a group of individuals or companies vying for advantage.
According to Ken, even the skeptic with in Intel are beginning to see that once the community transformation is allowed and enabled to happen, some real behavioral shifts happen within all parties and participants.

John Todor
John I. Todor, Ph.D. is the Managing Partner of the MindShift Innovation, a firm that helps executives confront the volatility and complexity of the marketplace. We engage executives in a process that tackles two critical challenges: envisioning new possibilities for creating and delivering value to customers and, fostering employee engagement in the innovation and alignment of business practices to deliver on the new possibilities. Follow me on Twitter @johntodor


Please use comments to add value to the discussion. Maximum one link to an educational blog post or article. We will NOT PUBLISH brief comments like "good post," comments that mainly promote links, or comments with links to companies, products, or services.

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here