The value of conversations is real, clear and present – especially in the actions of those who profit wildly from them. I saw this in the negotiations of NAFTA when it was clearly in the best interest of the some negotiators to keep engineers poor weak and disorganized.
I saw it again in corporate America. Imagine if Boeing was to publish a complete accounting of the incredible intellect, ingenuity, talent, and creativity that roams their hallowed halls – the world would dismantle them piece by piece. The “knowledge inventory” is a company’s most closely held secret.
Keeping secrets from the secret:
Sometimes it seems that the biggest secrets are held from those who represent the greatest real value. Corporations pay their engineers the minimum amount of money required to get them to their desk in the morning. Then they resist organization of engineering professionals, and they give them little or no power over marketing, human resources, accounting, and sales promises related to the engineering outcome.
The problems get worse when this big “secret” becomes public. For example: Steve Jobs has now been identified as trying to collude with Ed Colligan, the CEO of Palm, to not poach each other’s employees.
A Currency Collusion Collision Conversation
“Your proposal that we agree that neither company will hire the other’s employees, regardless of the individual’s desires, is not only wrong, it is likely illegal,” Colligan said to Jobs last August, according to an article Bloomberg reported. Jobs succeeded in making such an arrangement with Google, according to published reports. The feds are investigating and the Palm allegations only make Apple look worse.
It is quite amazing that companies would expose them selves to such risk if conversations among engineers were NOT in fact extremely valuable. Why else would Apple engage in such disrespect to engineers and others who actually create the products Mr. Jobs gets credit for?
The liberation of Knowledge Assets
The IPhone that rolls off the assembly line is not an innovation. Rather, the millions upon millions of tiny incremental ideas, conversations, and shared thought are assembled into what does eventually roll off the assembly line. The role of the CEO is significant, but still a minority task in the larger picture.
More than ever, social media is empowering people to hold equally productive and focused conversations outside the construct of corporation. With the ability to measure and track impressions comes the ability to pay royalties to those that produce, direct, and sustain conversations.
With the Obama justice department and other federal regulators already looking closely at Apple over the iPhone and handset exclusivity and the sharing of board members, Jobs’ alleged anti-poaching efforts only add to the fire that is growing around him. If social media continues to integrate at a rapid pace, the biggest fire that Mr. Jobs and other CEOs may have growing around them is the autonomy of creative, social, and intellectual staff.
Special thanks to a post written by: Veteran industry-watcher David Coursey who tweets as @techinciter and can be contacted via his Web site.