The importance of conversing and knowing when to let go
Its been a busy last week or so, away from my day job and participating in what is effectively a peer review of others’ work.
During that time I have made a couple of observations that I thought would be worth sharing.
First, I was spent a good few hours at Policy Unplugged‘s excellent summer party last week (thanks for the invite Steve!) where I was able to hook up with a few bloggers whose postings I regularly read, some of whom I hadn’t actually met before. The opportunity to speak together rather than correspond via comments or emails was instructive: these are people whose thoughts I follow avidly but, they are individuals who just happen to have built up a following by virtue of the medium they share their thoughts through.
It brought home to me the importance of dialogue. As government begins to come to terms with social media its important we webbies remember, and promote to our superiors, the real benefits – creating and sustaining conversations with real people rather than broadcasting via corporate websites. Whilst there is a place for the latter, it is the former that can create real opportunities.
Second, the programme I was helping to review is creating a new organisation (as the result of legislative change) that will launch at the beginning of October. Both groups of people making it all happen, the team administering the programme and the team managing the new organisation, are excellent, high calibre people who have done a great job.
But as handover approaches it is clear that is difficult for those who have been involved in running the programme over the last few years to let go of ‘their’ baby. Equally, the team running the new organisation resent the interference of their ‘parents’ as they chomp at the bit to get one with making their plans reality.
Its a natural and understandable situation they find themselves in. I’m equally sure it will all work out fine once the handover is complete.
But there are also parallels to my work. It is easy to mistrust others to produce the goods in the way you think they should be done. But that is missing the value that individuals bring to solving problems. Whilst its important to create a framework and set expectations in online communications, control in a user generated environment is pretty much impossible. You have to trust users to produce in the way that they think is best.
Striking the balance between organisational, corporate messaging and meaningful conversational engagement is a tall order for any organisation, not just government. But that is the real challenge.