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Open Uncertainty

I’m running into it again: those old rules that go unquestioned about why things cannot be open. I’ll forever be open to hearing the perspective on why they must stay closed, but I will also continue pushing for it. These are the equivalent of the business conduct guidelines that I ran into, was it only 2 years ago?

There’s a hierarchy: a hierarchy that says that some people can speak on behalf of the organization and others who, beyond their own circle, cannot. The people who can speak do so, and bear the burden of having their words dissected and reconfigured by media. This fear was absolutely palpable to me.

And what of the incredibly worthwhile things that could be said by the people who can’t? It’s a blanket gag order, erring on the side of silence. It’s an organizational imperative that the people who could make the best contribution to this event don’t, that they stay completely out – that they only participate under the veil of not working for the agency. I didn’t have it pointed out to me point-blank until yesterday, and feeling the true face of it is disheartening, like I’ve been given a blessing to fly a kite, only to see that the person giving it to me has punched a hole in it right before handing it off.

I’m trying to get a sense of this from a 360-degree view. What problems existed that created these structures? Are the problems that these structures surmounted still in play, or have they been circumvented by other innovations? What new problems require new structures, and what is falling through the gap between the new and old structures: people? Potential solutions? Spaces for innovating?

I know deep down their involvement is a good thing, but it does involve a lot of rolling up sleeves and getting messy. Time to get to it.


  1. You’ll be somewhat encouraged to hear that a certain large company we know is thinking about the move “from mass communications to enabling masses of communicators”. =)

    Keep asking “Why?” and “Why not?” – you’ll help make things happen.

    Posted September 27, 2008 at 6:55 am | Permalink
  2. I just had a thought related to this that may or may not be encouraging to you: try to think of all this as if it’s a force of nature.

    Big companies and organisations, by definition carry higher risk into the public eye when they don’t control the media side of things. Conversely, small organisations like activist and public interest groups carry much smaller risk so they therefore can afford to be more open.

    To put it in context, think of the repercussions of someone from Translink stating that all transit should be free. Now conversely, imagine someone from the Bus Riders Union claiming that high fares are good for transit. The damage to the former would be considerable, while the latter could be dealt with quite easily either by ejecting the person from the group or just submitting a press release.

    Progress will always be made by the little guy and the big guy will always be slower and more careful because that’s the nature of the players in the field. It’s not necessarily a bad thing though. If used properly, large groups can harness the power of small groups to take the risks required and get the job done. It’s all just a question of having the right people in the right place at the right time.

    Posted September 27, 2008 at 10:47 pm | Permalink
  3. It always takes courage and passion to create something of value. Don’t give up. The world is a much better place because of people like you.

    Posted September 28, 2008 at 2:48 am | Permalink

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