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Wednesday, July 20, 2011

The Real Ruling Class

A couple years ago, I was invited to speak at a law firm about the advantages of blogging. People had questions and I had stories so we were doing pretty well. Finally, one associate who wasn’t getting the answers he wanted, said it was all hopeless. It was not legal for lawyers to blog! Disarray.

After that I worked with a handful of lawyers at other firms who didn’t know blogging was illegal, and they used social media to develop relationships and a lot of business.

A year ago I was working with some investment professionals about the advisability of blogging to improve their businesses. One of the less gruntled (and less successful) professionals couldn’t dissuade his group, so he finally dropped the “L” bomb. Although it had worked previously, this time he was judged a motley fool.

When a lawyer was advising his doctor clients to create an agreement that said patients could not discuss the value of service received using the internet, my car mechanic told me there was a law against that...something about “go take a flying garbled at a rolling donut.”

What started this post was a meeting I attended yesterday where a member of the government gave an impassioned explanation of why intelligence agencies could not benefit from social media tools. Since no one else in the room knew the facts, he was allowed to proceed with his opinion.

Yesterday I overheard a building inspector yelling at a maintenance worker. “Don’t call me until this has been looked at by the elevator man and the electrician!” Now there’s someone committed to providing a good solution.

I’m starting to see how many rules are made up by people who are covering their weakness, uttering magical thinking to hold back new opportunities. These are often middle-of-the-pack functionaries, scrambling to hold a disappearing advantage, who don’t use the tools being considered and don’t intend to figure out how they can best be applied. They have little interest or impact on improving performance. Before computing took over some of the repetitious drone work, they had secure positions. Now they are trying to get that back.

That same day, I was privileged to see Steve Wozniak keynoting at FOSE. The recurring theme I heard was how people develop expertise by making things, often on their own time, to understand how to apply new technologies.

That was the same story I heard five years ago, about the founding and implementation of Intelliwiki, the intelligence community’s collaborative intelligence tool. One of the founders, a green screen mainframe jockey, decided he would invest a free half day every week until he learned how to build and use one social tool. By his second session he had mastered several tools and was ready to launch his prototype.

Our previous computing era was “enterprise.” The current era I guess could be “cloud,” although people on the outside keep calling it “something 2.0.” If you want to provide value in this era, it won’t be by making up rules, withholding permission, or criticizing social tools. You have to build something. 

Learn about  Blah, Blah Blog at the Web Managers Roundtable, on August 9, and BlogLab, coming August 16. 

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