For those who don’t know, I really like Robert Sutton, mostly because of his understanding of management and innovation problematics. In fact I find he’s really in the “2.0” spectrum. I read the no asshole rule a few days ago, and if it doesn’t directly deal with my usual points of interest, however it gave me ideas about certain aspects of management in the enterprise 2.0.
What’s this book about ? Those people who, beacause of their behaviors, put constantly their colleagues under stress, in a state of defense, run them down constantly. This happens through many behaviors that goes from public vexation up to systematic denigration. The ass hole is the one who prevent people from blossoming, who makes his team’s producitivity lower, whose sole presence makes people shut up and curl up. However, we must keep in mind that some assholes are only occasional assholes, and that everyone (and you and me) can become an asshole unconsciously. Those behaviors are very close to the management by fear Suttons wrote about in “The Knowing-Doing gap” and that’s a barrier to make you company become agile.
Managing the assholes is key in the way to enterprise 2.0. That’s not because interpersonnal interaction will take place in the intranet that the asshole will be eradicated. On the contrary, he may be the cause of the fail of the enterprise tranformation, his harmfulness not being stopped anymore by the walls of his office but spreading widely in the whole company.
Imagine someone who systematically deletesÂ and rewrites he’s own way all the teamwork that’s been done on a Wiki. Some whose comments on he’s colleagues’ blogs will be “that’s bullshit”, “No!”. I don’t even talk about monomaniac harangues, marked up with sentences writen in bold or, worse, uppercase. Do you think people will still get involved if there’s only an asshole who shoot publicly all ideas, all suggestions? The social dynamic will soon be over.
However we have to remember our asshole 2.0 will not necessarily be our tyran 1.0 who would have been upgraded. Perharps it would be a nice guy 1.0 who don’t feel comfortable with writen communication, someone who thinks writing on a social intranet is like writing on IM or SMS.
But things are far from being so dramatical. Because the transformation to enterprise 2.0 and the adoption of social computing may allow, not to eradicate this curse, but to lower its effects. As social computing bring new practices, it may be the right occasion to sensibilize people about their online expression, and to set a few rules : criticiez only if you have something to argue, always valorize what’s good in an idea, always remember you’re talking to humain beings, not to machines. The hypervisilibity of behaviors may incitate assholes to be much more careful, to stop agress other people in front of the whole company.
In this way, enterprise 2.0 may be the opportunity to turn assholes 1.0 into nice guys 2.0.
This also means the question of practices and behaviors has to be central on social computing adoption, in order to make a possible barrier an important improvement. Involve web 2.0 practices savvy people in this projet if you have some in you company…if not, ask for experts outside…you can’t afford failing on the questions of practices.