Facebook and the Military

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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.

  • Steve or anyone else, can you way in on the importance of “new age” networking versus the “over-connected, under related” casualties that may result???

  • Steve,
    I am not sure what the surprise is here. First, there are always two networks: the formal organizational network and the informal “real” network. The fact that the junior officers establish such networks is not surprise. Second, the Army is simply figuring out how to use these new tools. I am actually quite impressed by how quickly the military is making use of these resources. Yes, there are issues they need to consider, as there are issues with a company using these tools, but I would not be surprised if the Army had strong negative reactions to telephones when they were first introduced on bases.

    Instead of showing how slow organizations adapt to new technology, I think your story really points to how quickly organizations make use of these new resources and adapt to the realities of their availability… unless it is a Stalinist state.

  • Deary Duffie

    I recently attended a Silicon Valley networking event for “C-Level executives”. When the room filled with 40-somethings and 50 somethings were asked, “How many of you are on Facebook or MySpace?” 80% of the attendees said no. The sites were viewed as “social” vehicles not “business or professional” ones. The executives were stuck in either/or thinking once again.

    I came away from the session wondering how could I reframe these sites as opportunities for building partnerships and collaborations. When used effectively, networking sites (especially those with videostreamming) could present who I am, what I value, and topics I’m interested in exploring in deeper way. In other words, when used with intention and attention powerful relationships can be built.