Internal social networks, agent of change?

The recent overthrow of Ben Ali in Tunisia demonstrated the power of social networks. No doubts that Twitter, Facebook and their brothers and sisters had an impact on the Tunisian Revolution and on the recent movements in Northern Africa and the Middle East.

I agree with @oscarberg  who said that “Social media (connecting people) is even more powerful than we could imagine. We now see it overthrow governments”.

This statement made me think whether we could imagine a similar impact inside organizations. Yammer and his brothers and sisters could suddenly become the channel through which changes happen inside organizations.

Could we imagine

  • A bad decision from a CEO being abandonned because of the wave of reactions it would generate?
  • An employee not being fired because of the support received from all parts of the company?
  • Or even a line employee being promoted as a manager because of his influence in his company’s social network?

Did you hear of such a case? What are your thoughts?


About ernstdecsey

Passionate about the digital workplace (defined as the sum of collaboration, social media and the Intranet). The postings on this site are my own.
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3 Responses to Internal social networks, agent of change?

  1. Bas Zurburg says:

    There are many similarities between some governments and companies. Some companies rule by fear and repression too.

    You have listed here some real fears that IMO live with senior management and their corporate communication departments. But they will never admit that in public.

    I believe these things will happen in companies. Actually I have witnessed all three things already, and that was even before “social tools” existed.

    But I believe it will happen more and as companies and management decisions will become more transparent. And this transparency (if the things you listed happen) are serious threats for bad managers. It will undermine their perceived superiority.

    However employees are often more loyal to their employers (managers) than citizens to their government.

  2. Ian Thorpe says:

    Ernst – I’d love to see all three things happen inside a company, and I’m sure they have in a few. But from what I’ve seen, employees are much less likely to use social media to complain about something inside their company than citizens are about their country. There are at least a couple of reasons for this
    1. In the company case the social network is provided and controlled by the company itself, so any dissent is more direct
    2. You choose where you work, whereas you don’t usually choose where you are a citizen.
    It seems to me that debates inside a company firewall are much more tame than those outside it, and people are much more afraid of posting something that is critical or controversial. This is a plus in that it means inside debate is more civil and respectful, but a negative in terms of diversity of opinion, or dealing with the difficult issues.
    By contrast with a country – if we want to see more honest internal debate then I think a company’s management needs to actively foster and promote it and show that it tolerates diversity of opinion. Some are willing to do this, many are not (yet).

    • ernstdecsey says:

      Thank you, good points, Ian. At the recent IntraTeam conference, we had the interesting case of Alcatel Lucent (@sysiphe) where communities (cross functional) are becoming entities in themselves and were able in some instances to influence some internal decisions: “democracy within the enterprise”. True though that their CEO (Ben) is a true promoter and believer in internal social media.

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