When I run I tend to let my mind go blank–some of you who have been regular readers might suggest this is a steady-state for me. It’s during those runs after I’ve released all the clutter that I’m able to work on my book or come up with new ideas. Today was one of those days. It usually doesn’t make much sense where the ideas come from. There aren’t any segues. A bunch of stuff just floats around and all of a sudden, I have an indication of something I want to say. It’s a little like dreaming with your eyes open, except it’s sweaty.
So as I’m pounding the pavement today, an idea surfaces. I’m reminded of a book I read several years ago entitled, Inside the Aquarium. It’s a book about the secret Soviet military intelligence agency the GRU. The GRU’s headquarters was a building named the Aquarium.
Its author describes his first memory as a member of Soviet Military Intelligence: watching a film of an execution of a would-be defector. The defector in question was strapped into a coffin with an open lid, elevated slightly so he could see what was coming, and then traversed slowly down a conveyor belt into a blast furnace, screaming all the way. The author, along with the other recruits, was getting an extraordinary indoctrination into the concept of social networking. Although I have no evidence to support this, I would assume that he and his fellow recruits did a very good job of relaying the message of what happens to traitors.
Social networking isn’t new. The only new thing about it is that it has a label which means consultants can charge to help firms to figure out how to deal with it. It’s been around for long time. I remember in high school when kids would argue, who made the better car, Ford or Chevrolet. It came down to which of the two cars your family owned. If you owned a Chevrolet, you said Ford stood for Fix Or Repair Daily. If your family owned a Ford, you referred to Chevrolet as Chevy-let-lay. It sounds silly, but I still remember that and it probably has something to with with why I buy foreign cars.
If properly designed, the social networking message has legs. It doesn’t require a computer. It probably doesn’t even have to be based in fact. If I recall, there was even some discussion in the book as to whether or not the execution ever took place. Even if the execution was only mythical, the GRU certainly communicated the message. Customers communicate many messages; some based in fact, some purely mythical. Once the message gets out, it’s difficult to put it back in the box. Even if there is empirical evidence that the GRU never executed anybody, chances are that their agents behaved as though they had.
Bringing this discussion back around to a business focus, there are two perspectives to consider. How much damage are your patients causing by the messages they let out-of-the-box? And second, how much damage is the organization causing by not proactively getting their messages out-of-the-box? It’s time to start sweeping the rug under the carpet.