I've been pondering a couple of thoughts Jon Burg posted to Twitter yesterday. Jon's tweets are protected so if you want to see them or just stay on top of his whereabouts, random thoughts, food cravings and toilet trips (or whatever it is we Twitterfolk ramble on about) you can follow him. But for the purpose of this post, I'll paraphrase. Jon asks:
If we literally turned off all this social media / Web 2.0 stuff for a day would business productivity soar? And inversely, would innovation stumble?
Interesting questions. What do you think?
While your kneejerk reaction might be "hell no" and "hell yes," (in that order) you might also wonder if maybe, just maybe, you've got it backwards.
I don't know how many of you worked for start-ups in the glory days of Web 1.0. I once worked for a company that - in addition to all the free sugary snacks you could stomach - boasted a game room, a bring-your-pets-to-work policy, a half pipe and (right where a normal company might have a giant conference room) a half basketball court.
The argument was that the environment fostered creativity, out-of-the-box thinking and a sense of community among the overworked employees (I was one of those.) But in practice, we spent an inordinate amount of time skateboarding, shooting hoops and petting our co-workers' dogs (not a euphemism...) And for those who really did try to keep their heads down and just get some work done, I'd say it was pretty hard to focus when a couple of your fellow cube dwellers were trading free throws just three feet away from your workspace. We never did find our groove and despite successive seven-figure rounds of VC funding we never did come up with that truly innovative, game changing web service that we all thought we were working towards.
OK - so right Greg, thanks for yet another doomsday cautionary tale from the olden days. Well, we've learned a lot since then, haven't we? Maybe. Probably.
Or maybe blogging, Twitter, Facebook, Seesmic, Qik, Ustream, Justin, Utterz, Pownce, Second Life or whatever else you count among your poisons are little more than the candy drawer, half pipe, office hours pick-up game or dog park for the social media crowd.
And maybe that's OK - because maybe we really do get enough upside out of our participation in these things to offset the time we put in (just like three hours of basketball per day helped you keep your weight down even though your diet consisted of nothing but free chocolate.)
But how many of us have calculated the cost of what we're giving up -- including productive work hours (says the guy who is blogging at 10:50 am on a Thursday) and quiet time to actually think about what you can do to make big things happen (says the guy who can't seem to function without a four-tabbed web browser, two instant messengers, email, Skype and ooVoo all running at the same time)?
I have no intention of "turning off" but you know I like to stir the pot. So let's hear your thoughts.
[Photo note: This is purported to be a picture of the first web server, showing the handwritten 'do not turn off' sign - no idea if it is or it isn't but I thought it was a fun image to pair with this post.]