Corporate Communications Cure: Blogging

Large organizations do a bad job at internal communication. I'm generalizing, but when a college, hospital, enterprise or large business has hundreds or thousands of employees it gets really hard to connect them all. A silo culture can and does develop quickly.

Let's be obvious for a moment: silos suck. In abstract, everyone knows that silos are bad but not much is ever done to fix them. By the time information finally bubbles out of the top of a silo (department), a few things have happened:

* Time has passed and any sense of urgency has likely been lost.
* Original and creative (I am trying to avoid using the "I" word here[^2]) ideas have died.
* A few souls have been crushed.

Blogs have enormous influence. It's hard to argue with that. In fact, blogs are becoming less and less fitting of their name. Most influential blogs are less (personal) weblogs and more just really good sources of information and *quality* content. I'm not going to get into the semantics of "personal publishing" here, but the point I want to make is that blogs are a credible, legitimate medium[^1]. Full stop.

If blogging is a great way to share your own ideas with an audience, why aren't more organizations embracing it as a tool to foster internal communication? Clearly blogs promote diverse, thoughtful and unique perspectives between millions of people. Surely they can do the same within a college, enterprise or large business.

I have not done exhaustive research on organizations doing this well. They [do exist][cisco]. Plenty of companies have a "President's Blog" (90% are probably called *The View From the Top*) and some of these blogs are [quite good][sandy]. It seems that companies that are doing this well don't talk about it much.

What I'm talking about is giving each employee, regardless of position, a platform to thoughtfully and mindfully share ideas about anything. Letting staff members share ideas, expertise, tips and other useful information would build shared collaboration way beyond what is possible with a PDF newsletter or website "News" section. Letting employees blog would build more value than most professional development events.

Letting staff spread their own ideas helps to flatten the organization. Left unregulated, things would unfold as they do on the wider Internet:

* Some blogs will become more popular than others.
* Some blogs will get one or two posts and then be abandoned.
* Some blogs will say things that they probably shouldn't.

All these things are acceptable risks given the potential benefits. For this to work, there needs to be a culture of openess. A whiff of censorship or restriction would immediately kill any benefit. Achieving this level of freedom is a serious challenge. A second challenge is perceived time. I say "perceived" because one of the first reactions to this idea would be to claim that no one has time to make use of such a platform. There is no doubt that lack of time is a universal issue. At the risk of being cliche, the answer to this challenge is to look at Google where employees have to time work on any project they like. Incredible projects and products have come out of that initiative.

Blog posts wouldn't have to be long, complicated pieces. Simple link-blogging with commentary would help as well. Useful links & resources along with a few lines on how the resource might be useful would be tremendous. From my (admittedly limited) perspective there isn't an easy way to build a culture of blogging in a large, entrenched organization. Someone just needs to start doing it and see what happens.

So, company-wide blogging would undoubtedly help internal communication and collaboration. Let's go a step further. For the truly daring company, making these blogs open to the public would create even more value. Giving customers, in whatever form they take (students, other companies), the ability to see inside an organization from the perspective of all levels of employee would be remarkable. Being remarkable gets noticed.

[cisco]:http://www.fastcompany.com/node/1093654/print
[sandy]:http://president.valenciacc.edu/

[^1]: Don't email me and complain about the amount of crap out there. I know. The point is that there are lots of high-quality, credible blogs. They're not *all* good, but lots are.

[^2]: Yes, I'm talking about innovation.