Social networking is like oxygen

Sarah Perez at Read/Write Web (who also blogs at Sarah in Tampa) has a post up about how Generation Y is going to change the Web, and she makes some excellent points. But I would argue that the generation entering the workforce now isn’t just going to change the Web — it’s changing all kinds of things, including some of the ways companies function (or don’t function). I don’t want to be accused of social-media “triumphalism” or Kool-Aid drinking or whatever, but I think that in many ways we are just seeing the tip of the iceberg.

A few of the points that Sarah makes — including “They’re Plugged In,” “Socializing Rules” and “Work Tools Need to Mirror Web Tools” — are the same conclusions that a colleague of mine and I came to while putting together a research report for Don Tapscott’s New Paradigm Group (now part of nGenera), which will be published soon. We looked at the ways in which companies can use social-networking tools to help their employees get more engaged and collaborate with each other more easily, and how that can benefit both the company and the employee.

Many of the companies we looked at as part of our research, including large companies such as Johnson & Johnson (which happens to have a thriving internal wiki), said the same kinds of things that Sarah is writing about: that their younger employees don’t just want social-networking style tools such as instant messaging, Facebook, wikis, blogs and so on — they expect them. In some ways, being connected and sharing links and thoughts and feedback is like oxygen. It’s just part of the environment. And a company that doesn’t have or encourage those tools will be like a company that doesn’t have telephones, or bathrooms. How’s that for Kool-Aid?

At the end of Sarah’s piece, I was pleased to see a presentation called The Gen-Y Guide to Web 2.0 Work by Sacha Chua, who now works at IBM, but has been part of the Toronto DemoCamp and TorCamp scene — as well as helping out at past mesh conferences — for some time now, and is irrepressibly optimistic and engaged. I’ve embedded the presentation here as well. Some excellent advice.


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