The Dachis Group Collaboratory launched two weeks ago and we have been actively sharing our thoughts on social business design, while allowing the world to view a window on our work. Recently, the documentary “We Live In Public” has been in screenings around the U.S., chronicling the activities of Josh Harris a decade ago and foreshadowing many characteristics of today’s “social” mania. We have only partially opened the window on our work world, but the view it provides has caused us to reflect on what we do. As all of us are participating in the live, unedited feed, some of our worldwide team have some distinct thoughts to share and I hope to hear your thoughts in the comments below.
Jeffrey Dachis. Open for Business. I believe that open companies will achieve exponentially greater success than closed ones. Open = Success, Closed = Failure. To be clear and right off the bat, I am not in favor of 100% transparency as what defines an open company… or 100% of people seeing 100% of a companies information 100% of the time. That is a bad idea. Anyone advocating for that type of transparency is simply not working in reality. However, providing the right people with the right information at the right time in the most transparent way is the only way successful businesses will win in the information economy marketplace. Unfortunately most large global businesses are not good at getting information and communication to the right people at the right time. Although paradoxical, businesses aren’t as efficient being free markets for the information currency and value they transact. This makes for missed opportunities, slowed growth prospects, higher cost structures and inefficiencies. Its for this reason that engaging and exposing more people, more often, to more filtered information about what is actually going on in a business opens up exponentially greater opportunities to everyone participating. We are open for business.
David Armano. The Latest New Technology? Humans. We wonder what’s so special about this bright and shiny object we call a number of things. “Social Media, Web 2.0, etc. etc.”. It’s people. The latest iteration of the Web is connecting people directly to each other, giving us the tools to collaborate remotely and even access people in companies and brands that we never had access to before. It’s less about transparency, or technology for that matter and more about humanity. Customers, consumers, employees are craving more direct human contact, because they’ve gotten a taste for it whether it be direct engagement with a real live human being on Twitter or comments from your teammates with their avatar sitting right next to it. At the individual level, anyone can experience their 15 megabytes of fame. At a business level, this can present new challenges. What happens when someone wants to share a picture from the office with their external ecosystem? We’re moving toward a real-time Web where signals transmit dynamically—but it’s important to remember that it’s a Web woven of human beings. Connecting at a human level can make a business more personal, and enticing to customers. It also needs to be managed as humans from time to time have been known to make mistakes.
Bryan Menell. The voice inside your head. At first glance, when you see our homepage and how it’s a window on our working lives you revel in the coolness of the transparency. But then you think about the domain names of all the emails that you’ve sent, and the tweets transmitted. Moving forward, there’s a voice inside your head every time you tweet that says, “Remember, this is going on the home page!” But my tweets are already public, so what’s the real difference? There isn’t, yet my perception is that there is. When my iPhone is acting up, and I vent my frustration in Twitter accentuated by a #FAIL tag, the voice asks “Are they a client?” Even if they are, does it matter? While we don’t have all the answers to these questions, it’s great to see the “lab” part of Collaboratory come alive.
Ellen Reynolds. What am I really doing? At first, it was tempting to send a lot of email or update our internal knowledge-sharing sites so that I could watch my name appear in our live feed. To be honest, it also made me feel kind of productive. But now, when I don’t see my name show up, I realize that I also consciously want my coworkers to know that I’m actually working. I find myself wondering…do I look like a slacker when my name doesn’t appear in our live feed more than once a day? Am I a slacker? Am I not documenting what I’m doing enough? For someone to know THAT you’re working, do they need to know WHAT you’re working on? The fact is, I’m usually doing a lot of offline work and/or work that doesn’t require frequent communication with everyone here. Maybe I should be making a bigger effort to communicate, or maybe I need special feeds that show when I’m working in QuickBooks, researching on the internet or updating a Word doc. Will feeds like ours push employees to over-communicate or just to be more conscious of how they spend their time?
Jevon Macdonald. How far can we go? At first glance, displaying indicators of our email, yammer and other conversations was daunting, but the moment we went public with it I felt an instant comfort. I would never have guessed that I would learn to “ignore” it so quickly. It makes me wonder just how far revealing information and metrics about internal communications could go, and what that could mean in the marketplace. Could a publicly displayed Dynamic Signal become an established element of an organization’s website? Could it become an expected form of communications between a company and their customers? Will organizations compete to demonstrate the strength of their Dynamic Signal and the Hivemindedness of the organization.
Kate Niederhoffer. The black hole of transparency. Once you get into the swing of having all your communication acts published, a confusion sets in wherein you forget how much is public- exactly what is the boundary between public and private? I find myself questioning the difference between data and metadata. If I’m showing others which behaviors I’ve enacted, shouldn’t I show them more– the content, my style, purpose… I imagine it’s like being a performance artist where you challenge others to test boundaries by audaciously testing them yourself, in the moment, as if you’ve done it before, but really are scared shitless. The key is to lose your self consciousness and get in the flow of organically communicating in order to get work done. People seem to have grown increasingly comfortable with this in a personal setting (e.g. Facebook, online banking), but in business, we still have somewhat Victorian standards that could be locking up valuable information.
Peter Kim. How open are you? The Collaboratory made me rethink my perspective on authenticity in social media. For the most part, people live by the old T.S. Eliot quote, “prepare a face to meet the faces you meet.” That is, despite claims of openness, most social media presences are carefully crafted, user-controlled portraits of what they want the world to see. As a company that advises clients on social spaces, it’s paramount that we push on boundaries ourselves. I’ll admit, I was uncomfortable when we turned the feed public – but the more I thought about what was being shared, the more I realized how often legacy thinking can roadblock new ideas…and how much work we have ahead of us before people truly understand the fundamentals behind social business design.
These are some of our reflections on the Dachis Group Collaboratory’s window of work so far…how about you? What thoughts, issues, ideas, or concerns does this raise in the context of your business? How do you think about these ideas as they relate to transparency in your life or work environment? Please don’t hesitate read our thinking on Social Business Design, stay connected and subscribe to our RSS feed, contact us about working together, and engage with us in the comments below share your experience.