Digital Culture

I’m working on a presentation and was surprised that I couldn’t find a concise definition of digital cutlure in the workplace, so I’ve written one.

It is now, gulp, 13 years since the Cluetrain Manifesto and amagingly two plus years since I last wrote about Digital Culture. (Note, it is weird to see your own blog in your Google search results, or maybe that is it is just weird for me).  Unfortunately I didn’t really summarize what Digital Culture is, rather then say we should embrace it.

So here is a shot and critiques, rants and flames are welcome.

Digital Culture in the Workplace

  • Embrace Transparency – It can be because of the platitude that “information wants to be free” or becuase the ease of publishing information means there is no excuse not to publish your strategy internally to avoid ambiguity.  The point is give as much information to your teams as you can so that they can do their best work. With the right information they will do what needs to be done rather then just what you tell them to do.  Ambiguity or manipulation are both easily exposed and recognized for being distructive.
  • Speak with a Human Voice – Corporate language that obfuscates key points is easily recognized and easily called out.  People prefer to be talked to directly and in a human voice.  This also implies not taking oneself too seriously, bringing your pers♦onality to work and recognizing your faults — because we are all human.  This extends to encouraging people to speak freely because if you don’t provide the forum, people will create their own behind your back.
  • Use Digital Tools – Email, the mobile phone and web publishing were just the first tools to enable a digital culture.  Because you believe technology can make you happier, more efficient, or more creative, you are constantly looking for new tools to make your life better.  Google, Twitter, Facebook, the iPad all didn’t exist when the Cluetrain Manifesto was published.
  • Look for Collaboration and 360 Teams– “Today the org chart is hyperlinked, not hierarchical.  Respect for hands-on knowledge wins over respect for abstract authority.” (Cluetrain Manifesto #50)  It is impossible to assume 1 or 2 people can have all of the answers.  This means teams have to work together to get different points of view.
  • Move Fast – Because markets are changing so quickly, teams need to move quickly.  This also means forgiveness for communication errors or mistakes in work as long as it is progressing work towards the end goal.
  • Test and Iterate –  Intense reasearch and planning slows down this process so instead a focus is on iterative development.  Start small, run, test, learn, build.
  • Love Technology – It is hard to really participate in a digital culture without being interested and intrigued by tehcnology.  While this doesn’t imply everyone needs to learn to code, it does say everyone has to “consider themselve technical” and be able to understand basic of software development.  Digital marketing by definition means marketing with computers and this implies being technical.

Digital Culture – What it is Really About

There is a lot of talk of Digital Media these days. 

Urban trend spotters call out the growth of iPads and smart phones and Minority Report outdoor displays that great you by name.  Newspaper owners and TV networks are in a panic about digital pennies replacing traditional ad dollars as their viewship numbers decline.  Parents are convinced their children are turning into twitchers because they spend so much time with their game controllers. 

All of this misses the point:  It isn’t about media, it is about culture.  Digital Culture replacing traditional ways of doing things. 

Once someone learns how to e-mail, Facebook and IM, we shouldn’t be surprised they don’t want a landline anymore.  It’s human nature not to like to wait, so why expect people to be happy waiting for the news or their comedy show, and as much fun as Monopoly really is, with The Sims you are really building something.

The point is there have been a number of books and articles written about Digital Culture and it is probably time we went back to them.  The Cluetrain Manifesto from 1999 to the Economist cover article quoting “Power at Last” to Microsoft’s recent campaign about “The New Busy.” 

It isn’t about marketing needing to have digital extensions or coming up with a new banner ad format — it is about understanding how our culture has picked up hacker culture, embraced it and that changes everything.