Some time back David Weinberger wrote that the motivating force behind the internet was love. It was the basic human desire to connect that made it all hang together. At the time I admired his idealism and indeed bravery at being so open about something we have all been trained to dismiss as at best personal and at worst a sign of weakness.
In contrast I have just finished reading Joel Balkan's The Corporation in which he exposes the fact that corporations are legally bound to do just one thing - maximise share holder value and that in fact to be motivated by higher ideals, or indeed love, could be considered detrimental to that overriding purpose if it impacts the bottom line in anything but a positive way.
Where did all this come from, where did the idea that the most powerfully motivating force in the world had nothing to do with business? We spend most of our adult lives in the workplace and at work we bring about the most important and long lasting changes to our society and our planet - and yet we are not encouraged to talk in terms of love. OK we just about get away with "loving our job" our "loving success" but start talking about loving colleagues or loving customers and you'll have people running for the door. And yet isn't this what makes great people and great places tick. A deep sense of connection with each other, a depth of purpose beyond the every day that sees customers as more than merely stepping stones on the way to returning that value to the shareholders?
A couple of weeks ago we had a closing down party for DigiLab, my small but perfectly formed department at the BBC, and the next morning I started to write a post about love at work and what a powerful motivating force it can be. But I stopped myself. I let myself be influenced by those grown up voices in my head telling me not to be so silly - certainly not in public! But the warmth and affection we felt for each other, for our physical space in Television Centre and yes, sorry guys, for the punters who we dealt with on a daily basis over the years had more to do with love than anything else I can think of and certainly little to do with those extrinsic motivators - money, corporate goals and efficiency that we we were meant to have taken so seriously.
Love is also the powerful force you unleash when you start to introduce social computing inside organisations. Hugh Macleod wrote a while back about the disruptive effects you should expect but the disruption results from stronger stuff. The stuff David was talking of. The desire to connect at a very deep human level. To see colleagues as intrinsically linked and capable of pulling together in ways that those who promulgated scarcity and competition as organisational drivers will never begin to understand.
Over the last four years of watching the BBC's internal forums grow to their current population of half the organisation I have seen so many examples of love and connection - some of which made the hairs on the back of my neck stand on end. I mean real examples of people selflessly helping each other, genuine affection and concern shown between people who more often than not never physically met, and as one of the participants once said a greater sense of 'one BBC' than any of the corporate initiatives that came and went over the years.
Maybe love does have a place in business after all. Maybe more and more of us will start to have the courage to begin to talk about what really matters to us about work and our relationships with each other and to push back the sterile language of business that we have been trained to accept. Maybe we will realise that accepting love into the workplace reminds us of the original purpose of work - not to maximise shareholder value but to come together to do good things, to help each other and hopefully to make the world a better place.
Oh and by the way if the above is too new age and namby pamby for you I reckon social computing is capable of talking 25% out of the running costs of most businesses - so there!