A couple of days ago I found a weblog called E-Mediators, authored by Jon Froda and Jesper Bindslev, graduate students at Copenhagen Business School. They are using the blog to document their dissertation on the influence of corporate blogging on management styles, with a focus on intercultural management.
Here’s a summary (quotations + heavy paraphrasing) of some of their ideas:
- There is much more to corporate blogging then enhancing external image
- The decision to start blogging in an organization is likely to spark changes in hierarchies, management styles and information-flow.
- "These changes are taking place across multiple corporate sub-cultures, and the way they are perceived depends on the social context of the people it affects. [T]his is especially true in the case of geographically dispersed and culturally diverse corporations."
- Corporations are trying to figure out the ‘right steps’ for business blogging. This implies trust management.
- Businesses and employees will have to figure out a solution to the trust vs. control paradox:
- "What kind of approach enables a corporation to gain the authenticity, the conversation and the sweetening of reputation that blogs are thought to bring, while at the same time making sure that confidential information and "bad-press" is not leaked to the public?
- How does an employee make sure that he is not getting fired for saying too much on his blog, while at the same time saying enough to actually sound human and passionate?"
- As employee blogging is spreading outside the US, the debate will become more colored by the differences in management traditions between differrent regions of the world.
- Therefore, "intercultural competence and understanding might be a decisive success-factor for employees when they start blogging."
- Figuring out how to manage the trust vs. control paradox is something that will happened more or less in public, under the pressure of a blogosphere that dislikes the corporations who are firing bloggers, and that has the tendency to jump to conclusions.
- When a company allows employees to blog, it gives them the chance to become stars and the opportunity to make mistakes in public. Both corporations and employees will find themselves "in a new context and bad judgment is bound to happen."
- In order to prevent misunderstandings, employee bloggers must work with corporations in order to create " simple and easy to understand guidelines" — see Lenn Pryor‘s presentation (PPT) at the Blog Business Summit 2005.
- Firing an employee for blogging can be avoided if a series of preventive actions are taken (actions based on improving communications between the employees and the corporation) — see Matthew Oliphant‘s presentation (PDF) at BBS05.
And this is the best part (no offense to marketing consultants!):
"Cultural change is lurking behind the fancy tag-lines of the increasing number of blog-marketing consultants – behind the hype and hiving."
The whole appeal and success of blogs comes from giving people a simple communication tool that allows them to connect to others as people. This brings inside organizations a factor that is subversive — because organizations are not designed to accomodate it. As we know, people (a.k.a. employees) are supposed to have professional (not human) relationships, both inside and outside the corporate walls.
Bringing weblogs inside an organization shifts the emphasis from the role of ‘corporate actor’ in which the employee is casted, to the employee as a person. This shift must be addressed when drafting blogging policies and strategies. Moreover, the consequences of starting external blogging will spill inside corporate boundaries, and as a result organizations will have to change, in terms of culture. And here’s another way of looking at this shift: corporations getting aboard the Cluetrain will have to operate an internal change of metaphor. If markets are conversations and if organizations want to be included in these conversations, then organizations must become conversations, too.
(Yeah, well, sweet dreams, pal!)