Control Freaks Need Not Apply

If you’re a control freak, you might want to think twice about a career in social media.  After all,  some of the most successful social networks have flourished precisely because the control freaks got out of the way and, in their own words, let the lunatics run the asylum.

Ceding control to the participants is so counter-intuitive for many managers, yet time and time again we see the impressive results of this approach.  Take Craigslist, for example.  It’s  a revolutionary online community that has changed the way regular folks think about matching supply and demand.  In a recent report by ReadWriteWeb of the keynote address by Craig Newmark (founder of Craigslist) at the User Generated Content Conference, we find the following statements that are guaranteed to send a control freak through the roof:

  • “Getting out of the way is really important…”
  • “We didn’t care that the site wasn’t being used how we had imagined…”

Now, imagine a member of a law firm knowledge management department uttering either of those statements.


In the words of Jeff Jarvis:

As Google built the most powerful tool imaginable–the entire world of digital knowledge revealed behind a simple search box–so did Craig build a simple tool that changed society (and newspapers and real estate and more) without prescribing how we should use it. They create platforms to enable us to do what we want to do and then, instead of giving us rules about their use, then they stand back and put us in charge. [emphasis added]

The clear message in all of this is that if you try to control or constrain a social network too tightly, you will choke it.  Far better to set in place the minimum precautions necessary to ensure nothing blows up or melts down, and then let the participants work their magic.  If you start obsessing too much about policies governing access to or use of social media tools, chances are you’ve missed the whole point of social media and may well end up being a hurdle on the path to success for your Enterprise 2.0 initiative.

[Photo Credit:  H4cks, Creative Commons license]