the stranger: why openness scares the shit out of people
a friend and colleague asked me a question regarding some internal communications within our firm last week. during our conversation, she said, ‘i don’t know why [my team] won’t just ask everyone on yammer.’ i said it’s because on the internet, no one knows you’re a suit.
every day, in corporations all across the world, people go to work wearing a mask â€” sometimes more than one.like the billy joel song, they’re the faces of the stranger but we love to try them on. the marketing specialist. the associate. the senior vp of sales. but when you’re on the internet, no one can see that mask; all they can see are the contributions that you make. to put your ideas out in a public forum is to open yourself up to all kinds of criticism.
in business, you used to be able to hide behind your title. the senior tech said this is why we’re taking a certain approach, and that was the end of discussion because who would stand up to him? now the first-year analyst out of college can raise questions about, and disagree with, that approach. the person from accounting can share her thoughts on the marketing specialist’s ideas on the name of the redesigned newsletter. these enterprise 2.0 systems like yammer cause a flattening of thehierarchyand a cross-pollination of teams that we have never before seen in business.
and that scares the shit out of people.
but if we’re going to get the most out of our organizations â€” if we’re going to really excel in what we do â€” we’re going to have to become more agile and we’re going to have to look for solutions outside of our normal channels. each person has to pull on the same rope. the only way to really accomplish that is if we put down those masks, get over the fear, and go into work tomorrow as ourselves ready to work openly with each other.
i’m john scardino. i have a few ideas that i’d like to explore.
i hope i can explore them with you.