One of my pet frustrations in the early days of the Internet was the insistence of companies to limit access to the scary world of the web (usually only allowing special people, aka managers, to have web browsers installed on their desktops). The worry being that plebs like me would be even less productive than normal because they would be off surfing the giddy world wide web.

It was the perfect example of inaccurate assumptions. What better way of training staff than letting them figure out how to shop, book holidays, share photos etc. all online. By the time you’ve figured out how to live your life on the web, you are just about ready to cope with the disaster that was corporate-designed web applications. It’s a lot cheaper with greater longevity than sending everyone to a 3-day off-site training course…

But, as with so many things, history is doomed to repeat itself. It appears that the latest corporate fad is blocking social networking sites like Facebook and MySpace, as reported by the New York Times – Log Off and Get To Work. It is a completely understandable and rational reaction – the scary thought for managers that employees are spending oodles of company time poking their friends and demonstrating their prowess as social butterflies…

One day, MBA courses will have a module dedicated to pointing out that human beings are anything but rational and that is a good thing for business.

Taking advantage of social networks internally (and externally) can be the ultimate competitive advantage. Too few companies are agile enough to spot potential and do something about it. One that did, introducing a democratic knowledge exchange to allow employees to discuss and vote on product ideas, was reported in the New York Times – Here’s an Idea: Let Everyone Have Ideas (free subscrption required to access). The end result – a new product that now accounts for 30% of total sales!

Stick that in your anti-social network pipe and smoke it! 🙂


Join the conversation! 4 Comments

  1. Here, here!And of course, if employees can book holidays, do their weekly shopping, buy clothes/books etc. they will take less time off work to do these things. The web is good for employee productivity! Some clever companies provide creche facilites, dry cleaning, even travel agents and shops (I've seen these). They keep people in work, and the employees see them as perks, it's good for everyone.

  2. Well said that man!Wonderfully written, compelling argument.

  3. oops. should've said "that woman"! And a former colleague at that. Hi Sharon. Been reading for ages and had no idea you were behind this. Keep up the good work!

  4. Heya Stephen – exactly! It's something that tech companies have spotted and used to their advantage but alas too few examples in other industriesHi Mark 🙂 Cheers for the lovely feedback. Hope all is well at MS

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