This dentist asked his online network to choose his mask. He should have asked other dentists for their insights instead

Not what I want to see: This dentist asked his online network to choose his mask. Instead he should have asked other dentists for their insights.

Update: Tweeked the bottom image a bit. Yes, I made it.

Web 2.0 has little to do with democracy or building consensus. What used to be attributed to the Internet has become mundane as it becomes a permanent fixture in our daily lives, as well as our infrastructure (i.e.: LAN drops, WiFi networks and workplace Blackberries), our interaction with Government (“eGovernment”) and our civil social lives through the news we get and the entertainment we read. But mainly, the Internet is a platform, a dumb network that can be as democratic to common people as it can be a destabilising tool for troublemakers, it can be as empowering as it can be distracting.

Resting atop the Internet platform is the Web 2.0 layer – with those social networks and collaborative tools that connects the people with information with people. Arguably this layer is spreading thin as the Internet itself spreads out further and deeper, globally and locally (hence the arguments that Web 2.0 doesn’t really exist). Key here is what you need to know if you’re going to use Web 2.0 for your Government work:  what Web 2.0 really comes down to is the value of making connections, between people and information, and between people and people. With Web 2.0 you can better connect to the answers you need about the best tool to either forecast earnings or find that ascii art generator you never knew about (and maybe didn’t want to). Just as you can connect to gurus, you can find idiots too, you can connect to your friend but also be monitored by your boss.

Web 2.0 has as much of a potential supporting force as it does destructive. Good news and bad news travels fast in social networks, as do unimportant anecdotes, misleading information and time-wasting knee-slappers jokes and tearjerkers. What Web 2.0 is good at is facilitating the transfer of knowledge from relevant information, adding value to those connections. There’s really not much more than that.

Social networks, like Facebook or LinkedIn and even Twitter (I know, it’s called a micro-blogging tool, but with that many users under one umbrella, it’s a social network), you can connect to valuable nodes of information. Tapping into these networks means you can get insight to find that diamond in the rough or avert danger. Have an idea? Using Web 2.0 you can more easily share it and get feedback. You may find out it’s awesome or that it’s crap. More valuable though is finding out if there’s a better way, or if it’s an even worse way than before.

Most importantly what you don’t want to do is to be fixated on developing consensus. You won’t get it. When you think you’re getting consensus you’re in fact getting agreement, which is quite devoid of value. And When you don’t think you’re getting consensus, you’re in fact getting expressed uncommon views, which is not only devoid of value but also devoid of meaning.

What you want to do is to use Web 2.0 to tap into knowledge, insight, experts, testimonials, feedback, opinions – the valuable type of information that can’t be squared up into a checkbox but has uncommon depth and uncharted direction. This makes Web 2.0 valuable for any knowledge worker, in their collaboration and consultation with peers and strangers, who need direction and advice, when looking for the sound in the noise.

When using Web 2.0, mine for golden insight, not common agreement.

When using Web 2.0, mine for golden insight, not common agreement.

Final tips:

Good question to ask:

  • Where do you suggest I get pizza?
  • Meeting is on Monday at 2pm. Cool?
  • Has Option A been applied in another department?

Bad question to ask:

  • Should I get pizza?
  • When should we have the next meeting?
  • Do we agree with Option A?

Do:

  • Do the work. Write up that idea, that program, that scoping, that proposal. Then tap into networks for consultation.
  • Read the feedback, listen, reply.
  • Share your sources, information, rationale. Be open, transparent and straight-forward.
  • Be a node of influence: Add value to your networks. Share your knowledge. Start a blog, share that report, post your proposal and post-event briefing on the wiki. Why the heck not. Really.
  • Look at the credibility of the source and the value of the networks. Your colleague in another department gives thumbs down: valuable. Your mom who gives you a thumbs up on your brilliant idea: not so much.
  • Be professional about it. Take criticism, explain your rationale. Honest feedback is highly valuable, but can be in short supply if you bite back.

Don’ts:

  • Don’t waste your time asking for others to do the work for you. Buddy, that’s not crowdsourcing, that’s laziness.
  • Don’t withhold or horde knowledge. The value wagon of social networks goes both ways. Be a black hole and your value to others approaches the inverse of 1 over 0 </geek>
  • Don’t withdraw. Things not going your way? Not getting the feedback you expected? Count your stars that you got it before you went even further.
  • Don’t take it personally.  If your idea sucked and someone thought you needed to know, the pause for reflection is a valuable one. They took time to tell you. You have that time to reflect and to thank them.

There you have it. Web 2.0 can add value to your knowledge work. It won’t replace your work, but what may have taken a long time before, or was difficult, may be surprisingly easy having contacts or links with those nodes of influence, value and knowledge. But remember you need to borrow their time, so focus on giving them a reason. Value begets value begets synergy.

Now get out there.

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