Corporate and Individual Responsibility

The author and social media visionary Don Tapscott recently penned an article in I-CIO on corporate responsibility.  In it, he describes how companies could get away with a number of bad behaviors in the past:

At the time, it was possible for organizations to do well by behaving badly — for example, by having terrible labor practices, employing “creative accounting”, being a monopoly, externalizing their costs onto society, having shady environmental behaviors, having lousy products, abandoning customers, and so on.

But in the current world of social media and mass collaboration, he argues why this behavior is no longer possible and describes its consequences:

Thanks to a broad range of online technologies — such as blogs, social media and wikis — the public can very quickly and very easily find out what’s really going on. They can inform others, and they can organize collective responses.

Consequently, if your organization fails to invest in socially responsible measures, or even if anything about your business — such as a faked viral marketing campaign — is perceived to be phony, you will be found out. You will be tweeted about, and a Facebook Causes group will be created against you. As many corporate casualties have discovered, the result of such a campaign can be catastrophic to your firm’s reputation and ultimately to its bottom line

Read the whole post as it is quite insightful.  I would expand on Don’s idea to include individual responsibility for professionals.  Ten years ago, it was still possible to be successful by impressing your direct supervisor or a few key stakeholders.  The concerns of peers or subordinates was not significant.  New jobs could be secured through an effective interview and a few “shill” references.  The same transparency that has changed corporate behavior is changing individual behavior.  Enterprise social networking software is changing how professionals are valued.  People are no longer being judged simply by the achievement of manager directed goals.  Their institutional knowledge (and willingness to share it) is just as important.  Thought leadership and innovative ideas are expected as well.  When seeking new employment, public social networking software makes it easy for prospective employers to get a transparent look at an applicant’s real value.  The “difficult genius” that was protected by his boss will no longer be able to hide his “quirks”.  All this bodes well for removing dysfunction and creating more productive, harmonious workplaces.  Just as it is good business for firms to care about the public good, it is good business for professionals to care about the corporate good.


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