How is web 2.0 values driven? asked one of the participants in a workshop given by Jenny Ambrozek and myself, sponsored by ODNNY.
The question of values strikes at the core of our human and organizational behavior, whether it is face-to-face or online, through any of a host of social media platforms. Our values underpin our behavior. Behavioral needs about control, privacy, security, anger, freedom, creativity, curiosity, collaboration and a plethora of other needs are rooted in values. The social web makes behavior instantly visible and traceable. We must dig to understand the underlying values, however.
A recent John Battelle post The Database of Intentions is Far Larger than I Thought struck me as our collective “values in action”. Granted he is focused more on the technology and platforms, but in raising the “fields and signals” he is exposing far more than simple information retrieval tools.
This information represents, in aggregate form, a place holder for the intentions of humankind - a massive database of desires, needs, wants, and likes that can be discovered, subpoenaed, archived, tracked, and exploited to all sorts of ends. Such a beast has never before existed in the history of culture, but is almost guaranteed to grow exponentially from this day forward. This artifact can tell us extraordinary things about who we are and what we want as a culture. And it has the potential to be abused in equally extraordinary fashion.
The paradox of our digital sociality
The question of values is fundamental to the way organizations approach their stakeholder networks - employees, customers, suppliers, regulators, etc.
I started thinking about the operational questions our participants are wrestling with – how to set social media policies, how to manage resistance to social media, what leadership skills are required, and it got me thinking again about - how is web 2.0 values driven?
Values are one of the four anchors to our approach to building an organizational culture that can sustain its self. But shared values are often over shadowed by the other three anchors – strategy, structure and systems. Everyone asks, what is the business purpose of your social media strategy, but without surfacing values in action, it still will not be a success.
To be clear, I am talking about organizational values, the deep-seated beliefs and norms from which we operate, not to be confused with economic value.
To set a social media strategy or web 2.0 strategy without reference to the organizational values in operation is asking for failure. The social media strategy may be developed from opposite extremes - as more restrictive than the organizational culture or it may try to be more open than the culture, neither of which will work. Battelle’s caveat - it (social media) has the potential to be abused in equally extraordinary fashion, is critical to the values discussion.
Take for example, an employee who tweets about a poor customer experience, or a customer who blogs negatively about an organization that does not use interactive media. My assumption about both of these organizations is that the value in operation, relating to “customers” is not positive or it is weak compared to other values. A slogan about “customers come first” may exist, but in day-to-day practice, that value is far from reality.
Fields in the Database of Intentions
Battelle’s expansion of the fields of our intention maps and tracks with two other graphs, Ross Mayfield’s “power law of participation” which we have amended here and "social technographics ladder" of Josh Bernoff and Charlene Li.
All three of these visualizations reveal, in different language, the degrees of our levels of interaction enabled by various social platforms. However, Battelle's connects most closely to me to our collective values and motivations, our social nature. His NB ...
If you're not viewing your job to be a curator, clarifier, interpreter, and amplifier of the Database of Intentions, you're soon going to be out of business. The Database of Intentions is the fuel that drives media platforms, and as I've argued elsewhere, every business is now a media business.
Organizations seeking to improve their effectiveness, innovation and efficiency using web 2.0 need to once again look at their "values in action" and understand those values underpin strategy, structure and operating systems. To riff on Battelle, every business is a social business, ergo values based.
~ Victoria G. Axelrod