Being “Open and Connected” is not a technology problem, it’s a cultural problem.

Open and Connected

Whether in business or personal, no amount of technology can solve the underlying cultural problems that impede the adoption of a more open and connected society, business, process or world. This highlights one of the most obvious troubles with Facebook’s mission of “making the world more open and connected.”  Realistically, Facebook is incapable of fulfilling its mission, literally.

It cannot actually make the world more open and connected, it can only enable or provide the world an opportunity and platform in which to become more open and connected. No amount of technology can make us more open and connected in and of itself.  It is the culture of our society and businesses that creates the opportunity for people to be more open and connected.

In business

This is why so many fail to successfully integrate new technologies including social tools.  It is not enough to buy the box off of the shelf.  There are significant cultural hurdles to adoption based upon rewards, guidelines and punishments. The business that wishes to benefit from social technologies must first address whether or not the internal atmosphere of the company is ready for this fundamental shift.

  • Is our leadership team prepared to loosen the reigns on our people and let them represent the company on the web?
  • Are we as a company prepared to engage in conversations with unhappy, ranting customers?
  • Are we as a company able to “sell” our team on the importance of actively utilizing these new technologies?

These are just some of the questions that need to be asked before a business should count itself as ready for the shift toward social business.

In society

There is still a social stigma against people who hold certain beliefs.  Take, for example, the legalization of marijuana for medical or recreational use.  Whether or not you can post that on Facebook, does nothing to create an atmosphere where that belief is accepted in society.  In fact, certain beliefs such as this can be dangerous to express publicly when you are looking for a job, running for public office or doing anything else where others can judge you for your beliefs.

Expectations of infallibility, discrimination based on demographics and beliefs, and, in some cases, the looming threat of legal and punitive actions inhibit true openness and connection.

Who’s job is it?

Herein lies the primary roadblock for ANY technology, Facebook or otherwise, to bear the responsibility for or take the credit for making a more open and connected world, or business.  Making the world or a business any more open and connected is our responsibility, not that of technology.

It is certainly helpful having platforms to share and be more open.  There is no doubt that it will help to create a more open and public discourse around topics, and faster moving more innovative business processes.  But to create an atmosphere of safety to utilize these technologies openly and freely, and sharing personal beliefs is the responsibility of us as a society and as business leaders.

We will never reach this utopia of openness and transparency until we as individuals, businesses, countries, and as a world, accept differing opinions at face value without judgement or discrimination.  And until we have a society that provides equal rights and opportunities to all people, our social networks will not make us any more open or connected than we already could be, it is simply a mirror to the world.

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Jeff Gibbard is the lead blogger and editor of Social Media Philanthropy and the President of True Voice Media, the Social Business Agency.