For three years I carried a MacBook Air for business and travel. I loved it, the only issue was that I needed to run Microsoft Office software for my work with several clients. I was thrilled when I got the news a few years ago that I could run Office 2007 on a Mac with success. Not usually an “early adopter” I jumped at the chance to own such a slim little laptop, forever changing my experience of traveling with a heavy, clunky Dell in my backpack. The Air even fit in a very fashionable purse! Life was good. Until…
The thing I really hate about Microsoft is how they take over your computer in the middle of the night and install big updates while you are getting your much-needed beauty rest and then your computer won’t start in the morning.
10 hours of IT work later from two different shops, my laptop worked in “safe mode”. Very useful…
This is not actually a blog about Macs or Microsoft. It’s about social networks, and Twitter specifically. You see, I didn’t believe in them until last year, when Twitter solved my laptop problem. Let me explain.
It’s common knowledge today that tons of brilliant IT professionals live in Portland, Oregon. And for those in-the-know, they can apparently be found attending the much-famed “Beer and Blog” nights at the Green Dragon Pub. My husband, an avid Twitter user, sent out an emergency tweet: “Carmen’s Mac can’t be fixed! Who will take on the challenge?” Then, he announced he would be taking my laptop to the Beer and Blog that Friday night. I said, “These people will not care about my laptop problems, and besides, we pay our IT people to do this sort of stuff and they can’t fix it, so why would these folks do it for free?” He advised me to think of it this way: “You are doing a public service. Without puzzles like this to solve, these people would just be criminals.”
After several hours in surgery at the Green Dragon, (and subject to much conversation and competition) I received back a laptop that worked perfectly, but with no sound. Hey, better than nothing, right?
For those who care, today I am back with a PC. Still… I continue to dream of the day the MacBook Air and Microsoft work in perfect synchronicity.
A year later, we bought my brother a new tablet. But it didn’t play some of the games he wanted, and it wouldn’t work with a spellchecker app he wanted to use for his business proposals. So you guessed it – we used Twitter and tweeted the network again, and four hours in a coffee shop with some tech geeks later we had stripped the operating system off the tablet, installed a whole new operating system, and got my brother all the customized bells and whistles he wanted. Was it the same tablet he bought? Nope – it was better.
But, back to the point. Actually, there are two:
- Social media isn’t as bad as I thought
- The use of social media in the workplace is inevitable
I am now a proud participant in Twitter.
And I thought I was working hard at it – tweeting every day about things I really think matter, not just that my flight is delayed or what donut I am eating. I try to follow thought leaders and innovators on Twitter, I forward articles I think are timely and relevant. I take it all very seriously. I have 45 followers. Now my husband, who as far as I can tell tweets about soccer, knitting, games, cart food, and countless random factoids that I don’t even understand has thousands of Twitter followers. Recently he mentioned me in one of his tweets to say that I have a cool laptop skin – with a dragon on it. Suddenly a bunch of folks started following me (I mean within MINUTES) of his posting. Why do I even try?
I try because I have discovered that the social collective I am building on Twitter, though small, is authentic and true. They are smart people, and they feed me great information and resources. These 45 people follow me because they are interested in what I have to say. And if I need help with my computer, they can make that happen too. In other words, for very little output, I get a lot of value from Twitter. All in all, it’s not so bad.
So hurray for me, I have joined the social media world. But does that mean it’s for everyone? Does that mean businesses and organizations should do it too? Not only do I think they should, I think it’s inevitable. Here’s why…
Back to the Green Dragon. The first thing you notice about this crowd is they have really cool tech toys. And all the apps to go with them. Recently Bill Jensen, the well-known author of the books Simplicity and Work 2.0, wrote an article called “Hacking Work.” He opens one paragraph with the sentence,
“When a 12-year old can gather information faster, process it more efficiently, reference more diverse professionals, and get volunteer guidance from better sources than you can at work, how can you pretend to be competitive? When the personal tools in your mobile phone are more empowering than what your company provides or approves for your projects, how can you be saved from devastating market forces?”
I speak at conferences all the time. And I can tell you that at every conference in the last three years at least one speaker has been talking about the blend of personal and work life. But, what Jensen does a better job than anyone else at conveying is how the personal has so quickly surpassed the professional when it comes to simplifying life. Just look at my story – the IT professionals we employ could not fix my problem, but by turning to a more personal social network, solutions abound. My brother’s tablet didn’t do what he wanted for his business, so reprogram the whole thing to get what you want. Jensen tells us that “Business’s lingering love of bureaucracy, process, and legacy technology has fallen completely out of sync with what people need to do their best.”
He claims to know of several IT managers that have hacked their own corporate systems to provide the reports necessary to give the executives in the C-suite the information they really want. (Cue cringing auditors and security compliance professionals).
The point is that corporate control of information for knowledge workers is not under siege, it is already an illusion. Workers are hacking their organization’s systems daily in the name of increased personal productivity. As CEO’s scream for “doing more with less” in this new transitional economy, employees are stepping up the game and working the system to achieve results. Jenson explains that “Bloggers are telling your employees how to bypass procedures, forums give tutorials on how to hack your software security, and entrepreneurs are building apps to help your employees run their own tools and processes at work instead of yours.”
Time to call security?
What’s the use?
Jenson tells us that there is only one successful strategy for a hacked world: “If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em.” As companies like Google, Nokia, and Best Buy lead the way in embracing new tools that hackers will use with or without permission we see a new age dawn where workers are finally gaining the resources they have in their regular lives in the workplace as well. As bad becomes good the results are greater worker control over tools and procedures, increased transparency, and a new competitive edge.
Now, if I can just get that MacBook Air to run Office 2010 perfectly all will be well in the world…