Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Web 2.0 = Social Networks, NOT

I should begin this post by warning you that I am being a bit of a devils advocate.. but I am beginning to believe that Web 2.0 is a lot of hype on the social networking scene. Now, before you attack me, let me clarify that there is a difference (in my view) between networks of people communicating and socializing.. and real social networks that yield power. What's the difference.. it comes down to one thing.. TRUST. Trust has become the leadership mantra of the age. Covey talks Trust, Lenconni talks trust, even the social networking gurus are now talking trust.

Let me explain by describing functioning social networks. Here are three examples:

The Creative Network: Withing each organization, there is a group of individuals, who when alone discuss what I call "career ending ideas." They ask the questions that nobody asked in the board room meeting, like.. "What if we eliminated John's product line and reorganized?" These type of discussions occur when the two or more people in the room trust each other and know that they have to protect those involved in the discussion. These type of discussions also create a sort of social network that can eventually result in organizational change.... sort of an innovators club.

The Knowledge network: Also within every organization is a group of experienced individuals who have become quite accomplished. They tend to be the experts on how to do things.. and we have developed a trust in their knowledge and abilities. Their level of knowledge and skill.. (demonstrated through the many times we have relied on them) results in this group have abnormally high influence. We know them, and as a group, they tend to make up a network of individuals who bless new ways we want to work. And while everyone can act or claim to be an expert, we trust this select group because they have demonstrated skill at very high levels.

The Learning Network: Within these same organizations, there are networks of individuals that are created around learning. If I am a new manager, it is not too long before I begin relying on another more senior manager for advice and counsel. This chain of coaches and coachees creates a rich network built on trust. As any good coach will tell you, they can not help anyone who does not trust them. Most of the best coaching I have done has been when I helped someone face a fear or a failure, something that required a tremendous amount of trust in me as a coach. It also requires a great deal of trust to tell someone a fear or weakness you are facing. Real learning networks are build on a foundation of TRUST, not access.

So what is the point: When I look at who I might go to for advice on how to do my job, who I might trust because of their competence, or who I like to hang out and brainstorm answers to the questions we are not allowed to ask... It is not someone I met on Facebook, or who I first met through twitter, or who reads this blog. Truth is, we don't know each that well and I am still pondering how I could build a community of trust using these tools. No, the person I see having influence over my thoughts is soLet me be very clear.. the thesis of this post is simple:

It appears that WEB 2.0 does not build true social networks, it enhances those that we create through the richness of face to face contact.

Sure there are individuals who I have met using Web 2.0 tools, but the level richness and trust in these relationships is low. Only through time together and experiences where trust is built will I develop a true social network.. that takes time.. not something I can do using IM.

The leadership implication is that effective use of Web 2.0 will best be done in a blended manner, where it is coupled with other methods of working together. It also suggests that if you formed a virtual group using one of these tools, you need to find a way to have a trust building experiences.

So, here is my question today and I really hope I can get some feedback: Think of a stranger you have met online... in what way would you develop a high level of trust using WEB 2.0?

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