Shantanu's Blog

Corporate Consultant

October 19, 2004

 

Corporate Fear

Scobleizer Blog
Fear of being different. Fear of telling your boss your ideas. Fear of speaking up in meetings. Fear of going up to someone you don't know and introducing yourself. Fear of doing something that might destroy your career.
Fear of weblogging.
It's time we get over our fears.
I meet a lot of people around the industry. Almost everytime I meet someone, I ask them "do you have a weblog?" That's my way of saying "I like you and want to hear more of your ideas." Even deeper: I want a permanent relationship with you.
I've asked this question of people at Apple. Google. IBM. eBay. Real Networks. Cisco. Intel. HP. Amazon. And Microsoft.
Too often the answer is "I couldn't do that."
"Why not?" I ask.
"Because I might get fired," is often the answer. I hate that answer. It's an example of corporate fear. An artifact of a management system that doesn't empower its employees to act on behalf of customers.

I find this fear disturbing. Imagine being a flight attendant with this kind of fear. "Sorry, I can't talk to the passengers in this plane today cause I might get fired."

The time it takes for an idea to be hatched, found by Slashdot, and then reported in the mainstream media, is now about five weeks. Next time around it will be even faster. Why? The word-of-mouth networks are becoming more efficient.
Today there's 4,305,245 weblogs, as reported by Technorati.
Yeah, maybe only 55% of those are actually being published to (Dave Sifry, founder of Technorati says). But look at that growth curve. The blogosphere is eight times as large today as it was in June 2003! If those trends don't get your attention, nothing will. Go back to sleep.

"OK, what are the reasons I should let my employees blog?"
Here's my observations:
1) People don't trust corporations. Especially big and successful ones like, um, Microsoft. Come on, be honest, none of you really trust us to do the right thing, do you? So, how do we show you that we're trustworthy? We need to invite you deep inside our corporate structures and talk to you like human beings.

2) People don't like talking to corporations. Again, be honest, if you saw a press release from a big company asking for you to provide feedback on something, would you? Hey, Microsoft has had "mswish@microsoft.com" for a long time. Even when I was a customer of Microsoft's, I'd never send anything to that address. Why? I never thought anyone was listening.

3) Which is more believeable? A press release from, say, Ford Motor Company, or a few blog entries from the people who designed the new Ford Mustang's powertrain.

4) Blogs build market momentum and get adoption. Ask Buzz Bruggeman, CEO of ActiveWords, about this one. He's gotten world-class reviews in the newspapers you all love and know (just a week or so ago ActiveWords was in the New York Times). But he gets more downloads of his product when I linked to him than when a famous "USA" newspaper wrote a glowing review. They have millions of readers. What am I missing here? Yet I've had product managers for products that make billions every year tell me that they'll just advertise in national newspapers and get the same "kick" that blogs will get them. (They look at my puny 4,000 readers per day and laugh. Keep laughing, but do your homework and ask Buzz about his experiences -- he's not the only one who's noticed this. Ask Nokia (or, even the marketers at Microsoft) about how important a good link on Engadget is).

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