Corporate permafrost

There tend to be three responses to the possibilities of using social tools inside organisations - enthusiasm, lack of interest, or resistance. Resistance is in part because those who exhibit it understand all too well what these tools are about. Even though they often don't use them, or in a conventional sense "understand them", they are uneasy about what they correctly intuit about their potential.

But this is not some sort of workers revolution. It is wrong to describe the appeal of social tools in business as bottom up. They can appeal as much to the middle and the top as they do to the bottom. In fact bottoms and tops don't matter - they are anachronistic concepts. The way to understand what is happening is to watch Occupy Wall Street and the other protests around the world. There is no one single clear demand, there is no overt leadership, there is not even a specific target. There is just a general and consensual feeling that things are not right and a willingness to do something about it. Even if that something isn't initially clear.

Those in conventional positions of power struggle with this. Watching the media trying to cover the Arab Spring when there were no leaders to interview was fascinating. Paul Mason has a great post about the underlying nature of what is happening. It is decentralised rather than anarchic, purposeful rather than pointless, not organised but not chaotic. He talks about OWS being a reaction to "economic permafrost". Maybe what those in business who ban the social web are resisting is the thawing of corporate permafrost?