Facebook and the Military

While I have been a member of Linked In for some time now, I admit to being ambivalent about how much value those connections really generate for me, personally as well as professionally. Then, last night, I get an invitation from my son, currently in Bolivia, to view a virtual album of recent photos on Facebook. But I was not a member. After logging in and completing my user profile, I am now a member of Facebook as well.

The migration to such networking tools is inevitable, if not essential, for those wanting to be in relationship with a new generation of professionals.

Though popular websites such as YouTube, MySpace, and other social network sites have been banned in the military, some senior officers in the U.S. Air Force were recently appalled to discover a number of junior officers using the still permissible Facebook Web site for the purpose of organizing their squadrons.” (Strategy and Business, “Military of Millennials“) The article continues: “As current military leaders look more closely at the nature of this new generation, they will discover that it conflicts with both their organizational structures and their communications strategies.”

I share a similar concern with regard to many of the R&D; organizations with which we partner through our consulting practice. Command and control cultures persist in trying to manage information in a way that is not congruent with how young professionals establish relationships and actively communicate with one another. The rationale for protecting proprietary IP parallels the military’s concern for security issues.

Investment in “relationship capital” provides organizations with the most competitive advantage in today’s networked society. Engaging new leaders requires learning and adapting to their communication style; that does not come naturally to many of us.