Managing the open: How organisations can use social media to open up
The rise of social media is constantly and profoundly changing the environment businesses and organisations operate in. Employees are using twitter and Facebook to share their views, at times unwittingly disclosing confidential information and conflicting the organisation’s goals. Business partners and customers have access to a wealth of information as competitors and markets become more transparent. These rapid changes in communication technology and behavior put pressure on organisations to embrace more openness.
This change offers tremendous opportunities. Organisations can improve their every day operations and boost their sustainability and competitiveness.Wikis thatenable efficient online collaboration, weblogs and discussion boards that allow global knowledge sharing or the joint development of software in open innovation processes are just some examples for social technologies.
At the same time, organisations are facing the fact that the widespread use of social technologies undermines traditional hierarchy structures and threatens an organisation’s traditional power structures. They need to find ways of dealing with the challenges of social technologies and make conscious decisions on how and to what extend a wider degree of openness can be integrated into their existing structures.
This publication describes how organisations can open their infrastructure to be prepared for the new information and communication behavior of their employees and other stakeholders. Developing a strategy for openness does not mean that an organisation should freely share all its information over the Internet. A strategy for openness should guide management in dealing with new technological challenges , in encouraging new relationships and in adapting the organisational structure to the stakeholders’ new behavior.
The focus of this publication are the new social capabilities rather than the social technologies themselves. As Clay Shirky, the American writer and thinker on the impact of internet technologies, puts it:” We now have communications tools that are flexible enough to match our social capabilities (…). We are living in the middle of a remarkable increase in our ability to share, to cooperate with another, and to take collective action, all outside the framework of traditional institutions and organisations.”
This publication first describes the three main types of open organisations. It then describes the two areas of information sharing and decision-making, which allow analyzing the existing openness of an organisation. The third section discusses how organisations can handle conflicts resulting from more openness, that is the key conflicts between loss of control versus empowerment and management versus motivation.
About the Author
Daniel Michelis is professor at the Anhalt University of Applied Sciences and visiting lecturer at the University of St. Gallen, where he received his PhD at the Institute for Media and Communications Management. The focus of his work is the usage of online communications and social media in companies and organizations.
He is the editor of the Social Media Handbuch (Nomos Verlag) and in 2013 he initiated the masters degree programme Online Communication at the Anhalt University of Applied Sciences.