Is Your Social Media Strategy Generation Facebook-Friendly?
By: Gary Hamel, author of What Matters Now: How to Win in a World of Relentless Change, Ferocious Competition, and Unstoppable Innovation (Wiley, 2012)
The experience of growing up online will profoundly shape the workplace expectations of Generation Facebook.
At a minimum, they’ll expect the social environment of their worklife to reflect the social context of the Web, rather than a mid-twentieth-century bureaucracy.
With that in mind, I compiled a list of 12 work-relevant characteristics of the social Web — those that are most at odds with the legacy management practices that characterize most companies.
1. All ideas compete on an equal footing.
On the Web, every idea has the chance to gain a following, or not. No one has the power to kill off a subversive idea or squelch an embarrassing debate. Ideas gain traction based on their perceived merits, rather than on the political power of their proponents.
2. Contribution counts for more than credentials.
When you post a video to YouTube, no one asks you if you went to film school. When you write a blog, no one cares whether or not you have a journalism degree. Position, title, and academic degrees — none of the usual status differentiators carry much weight online.
3. Hierarchies are built bottom-up.
In any Web forum there are some individuals who command more respect and attention than others, and have more influence as a consequence. Critically, though, these individuals haven’t been appointed by some higher authority. Instead, their clout reflects the freely given approbation of their peers. On the Web, authority trickles up, not down.
4. Leaders serve rather than preside.
On the Web, every leader is a servant leader; no one has the power to command or sanction. Credible arguments, demonstrated expertise, and selfless behavior are the only levers for getting things done. Forget this online, and your followers will soon desert you.
5. Tasks are chosen, not assigned.
The Web is an opt-in economy. Whether contributing to a blog, working on an open source project, or sharing advice in a forum, people choose to work on the things that interest them. Everyone is an independent contractor and everyone scratches their own itch.
6. Groups are self-defining and self-organizing.
On the Web, you get to choose your compatriots. In any online community, you have the freedom to link up with some individuals and ignore the rest, to share deeply with some folks and not at all with others.
7. Resources get attracted, not allocated.
In large organizations, resources get allocated top-down, in a politicized, budget wrangle. On the Web, human effort flows toward ideas and projects that are attractive (and fun) and away from those that aren’t.
In this sense, the Web is a market economy where millions of individuals get to decide, moment by moment, how to spend the precious currency of their time and attention.
8. Power comes from sharing, not hoarding.
The Web is also a gift economy. To gain influence and status, you have to give away your expertise and content. And you must do it quickly; if you don’t, someone else will beat you to the punch and garner the credit that might have been yours. Online, there are lots of incentives to share and few to hoard.
9. Mediocrity gets exposed.
Online rating systems have become ubiquitous — for hotels, books, local businesses, and products of every sort. Though not every review is useful, in the aggregate they provide a good guide to what’s remarkable and what’s rubbish.
In traditional organizations, employees don’t get to rate much of anything. There are no such cabals on the Web. If you’re inadequate you’ll be found out.
10. Dissidents can join forces.
In a hierarchical organization (or political system), it takes a lot of courage to speak up. When communication channels run vertically rather than laterally, it can be difficult to know whether anyone around you is possessed of a similarly rebellious mind. Individuals who feel isolated and vulnerable are unlikely to protest.
The Web, by contrast, makes it easy to find and connect with individuals who share one’s own dissenting point of view.
11. Users can veto most policy decisions.
As many Internet moguls have learned to their sorrow, online users are opinionated and vociferous, and they’ll quickly attack any decision or policy change that seems contrary to the community’s interests.
Only by giving users a substantial say in key decisions can you keep them loyal.
12. Intrinsic rewards matter most.
The Web is a testament to the power of intrinsic rewards. Think of all the articles contributed to Wikipedia, all the open source software created, all the advice freely given, all the photos submitted to Flickr. Add up the hours of volunteer time and it’s obvious that human beings will give generously of themselves when they’re given the chance to contribute to something they actually care about.
These 12 features of web-based life are written into the social DNA of Generation Facebook, and are mostly missing from the managerial DNA of the average Fortune 500 company.
If your organization hopes to attract the most creative and energetic members of Gen F, it will need to understand these Internet-derived expectations and reinvent its management practices accordingly.
Sure, it’s a buyer’s market for talent right now, but that won’t always be the case.
In the future, any company that lacks a vital core of Gen F employees will find itself stuck in the mud.
Excerpted with permission of the publisher Jossey-Bass from What Matters Now: How to Win in a World of Relentless Change, Ferocious Competition, and Unstoppable Innovation by Gary Hamel. Copyright (c) 2012 by Gary Hamel. This book is available at all bookstores and online booksellers.
Gary Hamel has been called the world’s “most influential business thinker” (Wall Street Journal) and “the leading expert on business strategy” (Fortune). His landmark books have appeared on every management bestseller list. He is on the faculty of the London Business School. He is director of the Management Lab and is leading a pioneering effort to “crowdsource” the future of management. Follow him on Twitter.