Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Is Social Business creating Corporate Socialism?

so·cial·ism     noun \ˈsō-shə-ˌli-zəm\
1 : a system of society or group living in which there is no private property
2 : a stage of society in Marxist theory transitional between capitalism and communism and distinguished by unequal distribution of goods and pay according to work done

A scaring thought in the corporate world so used to hierarchical, top down, do-what-I-told-you model.  Can the S-word (I know what you thought but I meant Social), belong in the same phrase with the C-word (I meant Corporate just in case you had any other creative idea)?

The thought of allowing people at all levels to speak freely in a corporate environment feels like a dictatorship enforcing free speech for its people, a nice conversation between Government and Unions, allowing woman to vote a century ago or people from different ethnicities to share the same seat in a bus not that long ago.

Is social business the beginning of corporate socialism?  Is Marx becoming real at the heart of the capitalist world?  I know a lot of people are cringing now.  Some of these words put together bring back memories of the most fearful time of a generation.  Socialism, Marxism, Communism, Capitalism, Cold War, Nuclear War, End of the World.  I know, sounds scary for some of us.  But it’s good that most in the social revolution didn’t live through that and don’t have the same reaction.

There will always be a certain level of command and structure required for an organization to run.  Ever since I joined the corporate world back in 1990 I hear about reduction in hierarchical levels, elimination of higher and middle management, improving our listening skills, etc.  It seemed my promotions were always timed with corporate culture change.  Every time I was promoted matched the time the level I now belonged to no longer had the right for an office.  Worse than that, it was always perfectly synchronized with workforce reduction and empowerment down the ladder.  What meant in reality fewer direct reports, and luckily the same but most often more work.  So, while my boss had 10 people and a nice office, by the time I was promoted to take his job I had 2 direct reports and the same windowless cubicle.

And now this Social Business thing.  After all things we had to put up during our careers, we have to allow anyone in the company to say what they think and smile!  We have to share with everyone the knowledge that gave us competitive advantage to grow our career?  Share that knowledge with those who are competing for a promotion with us, when unemployment rates are high and the world is in economic crisis?

Yes.  Companies are becoming social.  Under the following definition corporate socialism is happening.  I define Corporate Socialism as:

 1 : a system of management or team working in which there is no private knowledge but protects intellectual property.

Whether this will happen through generational change in the corporate world or paradigm change in the current management model is the only question to be asked.  People will learn that socializing knowledge while protecting intellectual property will make drive results.  Those retaining it will get stuck in the past and will be eventually forgotten there.  And no; retaining your knowledge will no longer help your career.

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