CIO MATTERS

The power of social networks and Generation Facebook strategies

Scot Petersen, Editorial Director

In my CIO Matters column last week I wrote about how the social networking revolution will go only as far as the people who want to participate in it and advance it in a

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positive and productive direction. This week I want to address part two -- how management can help in that cause.

Recently, a former CIO was recounting to me the story of the power of social networks. The story was about a young woman shopping for a wedding dress (it could have been a prom dress; I don't recall, but the point is the same), and while trying on dresses she was texting and tweeting pictures to her friends, who formed a virtual panel of judges for the best one.

These young women haven't just bought into the social networking revolution, the former CIO said. "They are living it."

Indeed they are. My son just turned 16, so now I am hearing all sorts of stories from other parents about the perils of driving, car insurance and, of course, texting and driving. One father said that in order to allow his daughter to drive, her phone must be locked in the car's trunk when she's behind the wheel. That's all he can do to combat 12,000 -- in his estimation -- text messages she exchanges every month.

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Dealing with Gen Y, Gen X and the Boomers at the same time

Generation F more likely to ignore security policy

The point is that the coming generation of Millennials or Generation Y, whatever you want to call them, are already inseparable from the social networks that connect them with one another. This can make life difficult for future employers. Or, the new generation could help inspire a new generation of business and technology alignment.

Business consultant Gary Hamel foresaw this trend more than three years ago, but every once in a while I like to review his "Generation F" -- as in Generation Facebook -- management tips and see how relevant they are, or are becoming. These points, which are those "that are most at odds with the legacy practices found in large companies," can be used as "yardsticks in determining whether your company is 'with it' or 'past it,'" he wrote.

The new generation could help inspire a new generation of business and technology alignment.
  1. All ideas compete on an equal footing.
  2. Contribution counts for more than credentials.
  3. Hierarchies are natural, not prescribed.
  4. Leaders serve rather than preside.
  5. Tasks are chosen, not assigned.
  6. Groups are self-defining and -organizing.
  7. Resources get attracted, not allocated.
  8. Power comes from sharing information, not hoarding it.
  9. Opinions compound and decisions are peer-reviewed.
  10. Users can veto most policy decisions.
  11. Intrinsic rewards matter most.
  12. Hackers are heroes.

These management tips are best viewed, in my opinion, if you apply them only to the rank and file, the employee middle class, if you will, and only if upper management can keep an objective eye toward these workers. In other words, most users cannot veto CEO or corporate-level decisions (No. 10) or they will create chaos or, more likely, they'll be out of a job.

In a practical sense, however, as organizations are flattening out, these tips will work to empower users while also creating efficiencies gained by eliminating bureaucracy. De facto, skunkworks, innovation or "tiger" teams should be allowed to form and can indeed be self-defining and intrinsically rewarding -- if management enables them and sanctions them.


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