Does it matter that ngconnect, our Society’s intranet, is essentially a platform for intra-marketing instead of serving as a virtual water cooler where staff could discuss the past, present, and future of the National Geographic Society?
Yes, it matters. From the 95 Theses in The Cluetrain Manifesto: The End of Business as Usual:
… 40. Companies that do not belong to a community of discourse will die.
41. Companies make a religion of security, but this is largely a red herring. Most are protecting less against competitors than against their own market and workforce.
42. As with networked markets, people are also talking to each other directly inside the company — and not just about rules and regulations, boardroom directives, bottom lines.
43. Such conversations are taking place today on corporate intranets. But only when the conditions are right.
44. Companies typically install intranets top-down to distribute HR policies and other corporate information that workers are doing their best to ignore.
45. Intranets naturally tend to route around boredom. The best are built bottom-up by engaged individuals cooperating to construct something far more valuable: an intranetworked corporate conversation.
46. A healthy intranet organizes workers in many meanings of the word. Its effect is more radical than the agenda of any union.
47. While this scares companies witless, they also depend heavily on open intranets to generate and share critical knowledge. They need to resist the urge to “improve” or control these networked conversations.
Best we can tell, ngconnect is a top-down intranet. It’s mostly about “HR policies and other corporate information that workers are doing their best to ignore.” It’s about selling a message rather than catalyzing a conversation. It’s about seeing employees as consumers instead of as long-term partners.
Which is too bad. We believe a fully networked National Geographic Society — one that connected management, staff, and members — could create the foundation for a sustainable, independent Society that wouldn’t have to sell its soul to survive.