Is Social Media Blitzkrieg Hindering Innovation?

The Three B’s

Bubble BathThere is a common consensus among scientists that the world’s greatest discoveries occur in the Three B’s: the bed, the bath, and the bus. Why? Because it’s not when you’re running actual experiments, performing mathematical calculations, or analyzing data  that the mind makes its quantum leaps. It’s during the downtime between those activities, when your mind is at rest, that it intuits the pattern or the breakthrough discovery spawned by those hours of work, study, and experimentation.

 The Social Media Blitzkrieg

 What happens when there is no downtime? How many bus and train riders today spend their entire commute texting, tweeting, or surfing the web on palm-size electronics? How many people sleep with their cell phones next to their beds or even nestled beside them in bed?  You don’t have to be Theodore Twombly to fall in love with your Personal Device.  And Personal Devices can be among the most jealous and possessive of lovers.  When surveyed half of workers age twenty-one to thirty-one, say they would circumvent any company policy banning the use of personal devices at work or for work purposes

Even those employees who don’t live on their Personal Devices find themselves buried under avalanche after avalanche of plain old-fashioned e-mail.  We are in a state of constant sensory overload.  How can we have an inventive, work-  or life-changing thought when we can’t even hear ourselves think?

Playrooms

Ping Pong at Google It’s ironic that the very industry that landed us in this midst of this constant e-noise is the one that has recognized it must carve out a time and a place for its employees to play or to chill or to simply be. High Tech companies are creating spaces which encourage employees to rest their overworked brains, so that they can logoff, shutdown, and reboot.

Most Silicon Valley companies feature ping pong and foosball tables in their offices. The most popular way to get around Google’s block-size New York office is by scooter. And see those bookcases along the wall? They’re secret passages:  doorways which open onto reflection rooms.

This trend of creative spaces has already made its way across the pond. Mind Candy in London has a Wooden Tree House Room and a Gingerbread House for holding meetings.  Its offices also include a “coloring wall and quiet areas that look like Hobbit holes.” Ticketmaster’s London office sports “ a metal slide that staff can take to reach the bar area, where table football, a jukebox and pinball machines await.

Touchdown!

 The nights Germany carpet bombed London, the city’s citizens  shut off every last light. Maybe what we need to do is forge a daily social media blackout of, say, thirty minutes in our workplaces. During those thirty minutes all employees will take a furlough from all forms of social media. They can get up and walk around, talk to each other face to face, get a cup of coffee, or even work (imagine how much work you could get done in thirty uninterrupted minutes!). And imagine, just imagine, if  some employees took  a few deep breaths and stared  into space, or opened their blinds and looked out the window, or constructed a goal post out of pencils and rubber bands and thumb-kicked a triangular folded-paper football over it, what creative breakthroughs they might have?  Fresh products. Cutting edge services. New and improved ways to reach their customers.

Me? I’d kill for an office with bath. One of those deep Victorian tubs with bear claw feet and a bar of French milled soap and some bubbles.  Logoff. Shutdown. Reboot.

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Foot-in-Mouth-Disease – The Benefits and Pitfalls of Maintaining a Presence on the Web

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Shortly before boarding her flight out of London’s Heathrow Airport,  IAC Director of Corporate Communications  Justine Sacco tweeted, “Going to Africa. Hope I don’t get AIDS. Just kidding. I’m white!”

By the time Ms. Sacco landed  in Cape Town,  her words had gone viral, sparking thousands of  tweets worldwide.  Or should I say thousands of angry buzzes? It seems  Ms. Sacco had become the Girl Who’d Kicked a Global Hornets’ Nest, as well as the poster face for over-privileged-white insensitivity.   The next day, IAC announced that Justine Sacco was no longer employed by them.

While I have no sympathy for Ms. Sacco, her story reminds me of the delicate balancing act we must all perform in today’s social media engulfed world.   An ever increasing number of employers now Google job applicants as part of their initial screening process. If you don’t have a ‘presence’ on the web, many prospective employers will not consider you, based on the assumption that you are not technologically savvy and that you lack twenty-first century social networking skills.

However, it’s not simply enough for just your name, photo, and a few dull facts to show up on LinkedIn or Facebook. A lot of employers are specifically seeking out employees who are a cultural fit, meaning they are looking at your hobbies, the type of volunteer work you do, the groups you belong, and the social and political comments you make to determine whether you are a good match for their organization. Career-minded job applicants are learning they have to brand themselves through their online image in order to sell themselves to employers.

At the same time, the more we reveal about ourselves  online, the greater the risk that we will commit some faux pas. It may not go viral as Ms. Sacco’s did, but it may linger on the web for years, readily accessible to anyone who Googles our name.  In fact, some employers are actually contracting firms to run Social Media Background Checks.

This, in turn, has spawned yet another type of business. Repplers,for example, now offers  a ” a tool for scrubbing your social networking accounts of job-damaging material.”

By the way, Ms. Sacco’s viral tweet does not mark the first time she’s shown a lack of judgement in the world of social media. Last January she tweeted, “I can’t be fired for things I say while intoxicated right?” Sober or otherwise, she has much to learn about public relations.

In the meantime, what do you bet that IAC will be scrupulously vetting the social networking history of its next Director of Corporate Communications?