In the knowledge economy everyone is a volunteer, but we have trained our managers to manage conscripts.” – Peter Drucker
I had the pleasure to attend the launch of the iSchool Institute tonight and take in Euan Semple‘s stimulating lecture. As I understand it, the Institute is part of a broader effort to change the role of the Faculty of Information and increase its impact on the public. The Institute will continue providing continuing education courses that formed the core operation of its predecessor, the Professional Learning Centre, but it will also deliver periodic public lectures such as the one I attended this evening. It was also mentioned that the Institute may develop a consulting service to provide expert advice on information issues to the broader Toronto community and beyond. These are exciting changes – I wonder if these plans were inspired by the Rotman School of Management (which is across the street from the Faculty of Information) which has had a consulting arm called Impact Consulting Group.
Public lectures by leading experts in information work is one part of the Institute’s work that I am particularly excited about. Tonight’s lecture was given by Euan Semple, formerly head of knowledge management at the BBC, on the topic, “Organised Chaos: Social Networks and Enterprise Change.” This was a wide ranging talk about how to use social media in the enterprise/business/organizational setting. As an Anglophile, I was particularly interested in Semple’s metaphor for the tension that IT policies experience when faced with social media tools; at one extreme is the highly managed traditional approach (aka the Milton Keynes style, the UK’s most infamous planned town) versus the organic and open ended approach (aka the Cotswolds village style). One case study from the BBC was particularly interesting to me. When faced with staff blogging and other social media experimentation, the response was to create an internal wiki where interested staff collaborated and wrote the policy, BBC Guidelines on Employee Weblogs and Websites. I get the impression that engaging staff in the process ultimately made this a more relevant and successful policy. Engaging staff in the creation of an internal policy document underscores why social media and tools matter. Ultimately, social media is not about technology, it is about changing (hopefully for the better!) how people work.
Near the end of his talk, he referred to two recent articles in the British press that really underscore the fact that social media has arrived in every sense of the word. The BBC has mandated all new staff be literate and skilled in using social media tools such as Facebook and Twitter (BBC tells news staff to embrace social media). Likewise, there is a similar directive for the British spy agency MI5: MI5 dumps spies who can’t use Facebook and Twitter.