I had nearly finished drafting the legal documents for a hot new online start-up when the dot-com bubble burst in 2000. With the sudden end to the stratospheric stock prices for these new media companies, everyone felt free to criticize. Do you remember how the bricks-and-mortar supporters derided the notion of doing business virtually? Do you remember the anxiety about how to regulate and evaluate online business activities? Ten years later, some of those concerns seem unwarranted. And, more importantly, online business activity has become a significant part of the way we all live our lives.
If you look around, you’ll see some of the same issues with respect to Enterprise 2.0 and social media generally. There’s lots of concern about how to evaluate its efficacy. And even more concern about how to regulate it. Some companies have clamped down on their employees, while others have taken a more moderate approach, presumably emboldened by the potential they see in these new communications channels. Whatever mode your company’s in, take heart from the fact that we’ve seen this pattern of behavior before. If you doubt it, watch the 5 1/2 minute video below entitled “Card-Carrying Capitalist Supports Nationalization” provided courtesy of The Wall Street Journal Online. In this video, author Matthew Bishop explains why he thinks bank nationalization can be a good thing. While I’m not in any way endorsing or criticizing his point of view, I was interested in his suggestion (about 2.5 minutes into the video) that bubbles follow innovation. And, because it’s hard to understand properly what’s really going on in a period of great innovation, it’s easy for abuse to occur during that bubble. However, companies that can find some sound operating principles that take advantage of the innovation will be able to ride out the bubble and emerge in a stronger position. The role of social media evangelists is to help companies find that oasis of calm and sanity amid the hype and frenetic activity surrounding web 2.0 tools so they are well-positioned to thrive after the bubble bursts.
So when you hear people deriding social media and Enterprise 2.0, remember that they are viewing these new communications channels through their old bricks-and-mortar lens. They will catch up with the rest of us once their vision has been corrected.
[Photo Credit: h. koppdelaney]