when i was growing up in south philly, my family didn’t have much money. but being kids, my brother and i did what kids do anyway. we played roller hockey without helmets, gloves, shin pads… pretty much any protective equipment at all. i tended goal with nothing but leg pads, a — what we called it back in those days — waffle board, a baseball glove, and a stick (all of which was borrowed, hand-me downs, or bought with my paper route money). i’ve been hit with sticks and pucks in the face, and had more than my share of scrapes and bruises. looking back at it — it was stupid. it was dangerous. but i loved playing hockey!

fast forward about 10-12 years, and i’m wearing a suit and tie — screaming at my team from behind the bench at the penn state ice pavilion with my heart beating out of my chest in my first game as assistant coach for the ACHA division 2 ice hockey team. my love of hockey that was sown on the streets of philadelphia is the only reason i was able to reach that point in my life. we beat SUNY stony brook that night by a score of 3-2 — the #1 ranked team in the league. it was one of the greatest wins in our program’s history, and was the staging point for a season-long run that put us into the quarterfinals of the national tournament in fort collins, colorado that year.

and how did we win? the whole game to that point, i had kept my guys on a strict 30-40 second shift maximum, but neuf had shown me something in the 57 minutes we played in the game. he was getting chances from the blueline, and i — as he — just couldn’t understand how nothing bounced the right way for him. so with 3 minutes and change left in regulation, with a faceoff in the offensive zone, i double-shifted my second pair defensemen — including neuf. it was stupid! it was dangerous.

neuf took a shot from the point which got blocked before it could reach the net. stony brook came down the ice and controlled the puck in our zone. my decision was looking a horrible one at that point, but after a lengthy scrum in the corner, the puck bounced out in front of our goal — right where neuf was standing. he picked up the puck, skated the length of the ice, and — with just over 2 minutes left in the game — scored his first goal of the season on a breakaway giving us the 3-2 lead.

i tell this story, because i hear countless times in discussions — over and over again — that using social media in the enterprise (or at all!) is dangerous. people point at the security risks and other negatives:

  • classified information could be passed to folks who do not have proper security clearances or a ‘need to know’
  • presenting your location, activities, or client work could put you at risk of being assaulted, abducted, or targeted by terrorists
  • people don’t use social media for business purposes, only for “time-wasting” and chatter
  • posting information about yourself — such as your likes, dislikes, hobbies, etc. — can leave you vulnerable to social engineering or corporate espionage

there are certainly many excuses that people give as to why social media has no place in business, or in life in general. there are many people who believe that posting any personal information online is dangerous, and opens yourself to a slew of bad consequences. but one simple fact remains: for every one person who has come to harm because of anything they’ve done on social networks, there are far more people who have not.

what we’re talking about is risk. there’s a risk involved in using social media, and no one denies that. but those of us who promote social media and “enterprise 2.0” do so because we see the risk involved, and we believe in our heart of hearts that the juice is worth the squeeze. we believe — for all the negatives, for all the bad that can happen — when used correctly, social media can provide massive benefits to employees’ morale and productivity, the organization’s idea generation and knowledge sharing, and corporate recruiting.

when you talk about social media, saying “it’s dangerous” is no excuse. the way i see things, just as we had back in south philly, you can either refuse to take the risk of having a hockey stick open a gash in your nose from an accidental high-stick — or you can take that chance and end up becoming coach some day. because if you’re scared to move forward, you’re going to get left behind.