As Within, So Without – The Second Wave of Social Media

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They say to treat your friends like family and your family like friends. I think we should also say treat your staff like customers and your customers like staff. If the idea of that scares the heck out of you.. well as they also say Houston, we have a problem!

Jesse Stanchak offered up an excellent blog about the second wave of social media. He suggests that the next big thing in social media will be internal social media. He quotes Cisco’s Andrew Warden who says Internal social media is the second wave the future of work is in communities. Shouldn’t have internal communication been the first wave?

I do a lot of work with individuals, helping them learn to communicate and relate better. We rarely begin with the way they communicate or relate to others though. Granted, it’s usually the problems they are having with the way they communicate with others that brings them to me, the place we start is with the way they communicate with themselves. It’s an “as within, so without” kind of thing.

It’s the messages, self talk and foundational beliefs or mental models that exist within us that are reflected in our communication with others. Organizations, because they are created and maintained by humans, work the same way.

Perhaps the work that organizations need to do before embarking on a social media campaigns or initiatives includes the same belly button gazing process that individuals do. Poet G.M. Hopkins invented the word selving to describe the activity of critically and deeply looking at oneself. Organizations that regularly go through that same process, that really know themselves and as a result of this organizational self actualization, have created and maintain internal health stand in good stead to create and maintain relationships outside the organization.

So what does it mean to have internal health? With both individuals and organizations it means to know oneself, have clear yet flexible boundaries and to be able to communicate in a way that enhances relationships. Organizations that do that internally will probably find it easy to do externally as well. On the other hand, organizations that are unhealthy, maintain silos, and don’t communicate well within their walls will probably have some difficulty having healthy and enriching relationship with those outside i.e. with their customers or constituents.

Romi Mahajan looks at this from a philosophical perspective and suggests that it’s the dearth of Knowledge Transmission [that] is the single-biggest problem afflicting the corporate world.  Knowledge transmission is just one organizational prerogative that is negatively impacted by unhealthy communications and relationship building practices.

How are you communicating internally, within your organization What are your internal relationship building skills like? Are you keeping conversations going and people connected? Do you have ongoing dialogue about values, vision and strategy alignment? Do you genuinely like your co-workers, staff and leadership folks? Do you feel safe and do other employees feel safe to share ideas including unpopular ones? Do you share wins and losses?

Once those questions are addressed internally moving into the wider, public, social media space should be effortless or at least a lot more familiar and ultimately successful.

So… What are you doing to increase the internal health of your organization?

See also this amazing post by Jason Mogus from Communicopia that covers similar concepts from different angle.