Try It, You`ll Like It

By Edward Cone  |  Posted 02-11-2008

If you are not on Facebook, if you have never created and maintained a blog, then maybe you aren't putting enough thought into your job.

I know you're busy. I don't mean you should be spending hours organizing your life around a social networking site, or ranting to a small audience about whatever it is that makes you rant. And let's be honest: For many executives, the fewer pictures in bathing suits posted online, the better.

But understanding Web 2.0 applications is important to your business, and you need to spend some quality time using them to really get what they're all about. The power of user-driven tools lies in the using. Just reading about them, or spending an hour or two playing with them, doesn't do them justice; you've got to go hands-on to appreciate their power.

Yet, according to studies conducted by CIO Insight Research, many CIOs have limited experience with these tools. Fewer than half the CIOs participating in our 2007 Emerging Technologies Survey said they personally make use of blogs, and just over one-third use any form of social networking software; more than one in 10 respondents said they don't participate in any Web 2.0 activities.

That's not good enough. I learned this lesson several years ago while writing a magazine profile of ur-blogger Dave Winer. I did the standard reporting job involving hours of interviews and Web site research.

I had been a journalist for 16 years and had hundreds of articles published, in print and online. But only when I created and maintained a blog of my own to explore Winer's vision did I gain a visceral understanding of the power of natural-language, push-button publishing.

The same thing happened when I quit reading about social networking sites and started developing my own presence on Facebook. First-hand knowledge of the network's power changed my understanding of its appeal, and its possibilities for business, including good things like household finance tools offered to Facebook users by TD Canada Trust, and not-so-good things like Facebook's overzealous monitoring of user shopping habits.

Workers across your company aren't waiting for you to try these applications, they're using them already. The incoming generation of Web natives--the young people who will replace the retiring baby boomers by the millions--expects a work environment that reflects their reality. That's where they'll be most productive, too.

If you hear that workers plan to use Web 2.0 tools for knowledge management in lieu of that expensive, purpose-built software you bought, you might just brush it off as hype. Spend a little time mucking around with Google's free blogger service and invest some time in Facebook, though, and you will understand what the fuss is about.

The immersive approach goes beyond the computer: If you think text-messaging is just for teens, you'd better limber up your thumbs and start hitting the keypad.

Try it, you'll like it. Better yet, you'll understand it in ways that could make a difference to your business.