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Which Comes First, Social Networking or Openness?

Joe McKendrick
Insurance Experts' Forum, February 10, 2010

Bill Kenealy has just published an excellent overview here at Insurance Networking News on the impact of social networking on the insurance industry. Anyone who wants to better understand where this emerging force will take our businesses should read this article.

There are always questions about the business value of a new paradigm or technology, and social networking is no exception. Many executives claim that their organizations simply are not yet “ready” for social networking approaches.

That raises a variation of the classic chicken-and-egg question: Will social networking help transform an organization to become more open and collaborative, or does an organization need to have an open and collaborative culture to adopt social networking in the first place?

Jeanne Meister and Karie Willyerd, authors of an upcoming book titled, The 2020 Workplace (forthcoming in spring), say yes, to some degree, an organization may need to be ready for social networking to make it work. They offer scenarios where things don't quite work out as planned: an executive blogging about a downsizing may invite criticism or even lawsuits from expelled employees, or a manager takes down a site because of critical comments about products or services.

Or, consider what employees may be posting from home. What if they are posting negative things about the company, or people within the company? How many companies have policies on that?

It's possible an organization may not quite be ready to handle being open and transparent to employees, customers and partners, Meister and Willyerd say companies need to gradually immerse themselves in social networking strategies—not dashing in an all-at-once fashion. One way to start is through pilot projects addressing specific business needs, such as employee communications and document sharing. They even recommend a one-day “Innovation Jam” involving the entire workforce.

Bill has a quote from Celent analyst Jeff Goldberg, who captures the challenge very well: “Technology is less well adopted when its an entirely new thing—it's all about building into a process somebody is already using on a day-to-day basis.” 

Joe McKendrick is an author, consultant, blogger and frequent INN contributor specializing in information technology.

Readers are encouraged to respond to Joe using the “Add Your Comments” box below. He can also be reached at joe@mckendrickresearch.com.

This blog was exclusively written for Insurance Networking News. It may not be reposted or reused without permission from Insurance Networking News.

The opinions of bloggers on www.insurancenetworking.com do not necessarily reflect those of Insurance Networking News.

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