New Media: Common Sense & Walled Gardens

Lots of things are easy when you don’t have to do them yourself.  In theory it is easy to lose weight (eat less/move more), save money (just say no) and be reasonably successful (work hard/avoid bad habits).Nobody should be fat, sad or poor, but it doesn’t always work out that way. The same is true of using the new media.It is really easy, as long as you don’t have to produce results.As with most good v bad habits, the solution to all our problems is simple, just not easy.

I include the caveat paragraph since I am about to proffer some of the advice and lessons I took away from the new media workshop and everybody will know it already.  They are actually about all communications.   The new media just amplifies them. (To err is human, but to really screw up you need computer or government support.  We have both.)  Like the good advice about eating less and moving more in order to lose weight, these are not profound thoughts, but they bear repeating because they are the simple things that everybody knows we should do, but not many people really do.  Here are a few.  They overlap. 

·    Engage before you explain.  This is the simple idea of tuning in to your audience. I talked about it more extensively in my post a couple days ago. I don’t think I have ever met anybody who doesn’t “know” this, but most communications efforts remain inwardly driven.   We are telling them what we (or our bosses) want them to hear in the manner and on the media that we like best.    

·    Use information you gather about your audience or don’t bother to gather it. This is a corollary to the first point. I have observed that organizations often do not fail to gather information, but the fail to gather useful information.  If you cannot or will not change your approach based on the information you obtained from research, it is worse than useless, since you have wasted the time and money you spent on the study AND lulled yourself into a false feeling of security. ·    Connect all the parts of your organization, but leave them autonomy.  This is a variation on the “In Search of Excellence” formula or simultaneous loose and tight controls in a learning organization. It is made more relevant in the new media age by the various technologies, such as wikis and blogs that leadership can use to communicate with a light or heavy hand. 

·    Don’t build walled gardens. It is tempting to create your own systems or groups using technologies and techniques perfectly suited to your own unique situation. Don’t. You are probably less unique than you think you are and beyond that you almost certainly cannot keep up with technical improvements that will make even the most exquisite made-to-order system obsolete in a few months. Besides building a walled garden will almost certainly keep out other ideas (see the first point above.) 

·    Leverage existing systems and products. You can still have a great garden w/o the walls.  There are always existing communities where you can participate and after you have participated maybe invite others into your own system to participate with you.   Remember that there are always more smart people outside the organization than within it.

·    Be platform flexible.   Your message is important, not the medium it is delivered on. You have to be flexible enough to choose the appropriate delivery mechanisms and not fall in love with any one of them. They pass quickly.  Just ask Jeeves.  ·    Give up some control.  If you want to influence others, you have to be prepared to be influenced by them.  My way or the highway works only in rare instances and if you demand what you think is perfection; you may soon find that you have that perfection all to yourself, since everybody else has wandered away from you.   

·    Try lots of things and know that most of what you try will fail, usually publicly, sometimes spectacularly.  Revel in it.  Embrace it. It is impossible to predict outcomes in the new media. Even if you had perfect knowledge of the current situation, it will change in unexpected and unknowable ways. The best strategy is a statistical one of spreading your bets and then responding to changes as they happen, rather than try to set out with certainty in advance. Those who try nothing, get nothing and it is small consolation that they are never wrong.  

Have I written anything that wasn’t simple or that you didn’t know already?  Why don’t we do it?