Ask the French about linguistic purity and you get the feeling that an attack on the language is an attack on the culture. Likewise, corporations arising from the industrial revolution communicate internal structure and processes through the use of a well protected internal taxonomy. This serves as both a means of storing knowledge across generations of workers, and as a means of encrypting the knowledge from those who would pillage the enterprise.
For example, some people who leave Boeing (a 94 year old company) have a very difficult time re-integrating into society because many of their professional skills and tools are articulated in a language that nobody outside Boeing understands. Ex-employees of many large corporations often find themselves professionally invisible through an extended period of re-adjustment.
Melting Pot Economics
A quick tour of LinkedIn demonstrates the emergence of a template, of sorts, into which people articulate as best as possible, their knowledge and experience for others to read. Over time, a new common language emerges. While technical terminology of the professions becomes more consistent, the industrial era encryption instead becomes more of a qualifier adjective; a Disney Engineer and a Boeing Engineer offer complementary data to a market for engineers.
Social Media Incorporated:
This represents one example of how social media can duplicate, and even increase, the efficiency of the HR function of a corporation – except outside the construct of the corporation. This also represents an attack on the culture of the corporation. If the knowledge inventory of a company such as Boeing becomes visible, the world would then know how to attack Boeing. As Sun Tzu wrote in the Art of War; if you know where your opponent keeps their ammunition, you can beat them with a pea shooter.
Intellectual Real Estate
For less than the cost of an Airbus 320, a competitor can retire the 5-10 Boeing engineers without whom the company could no longer maintain their FAA certification and would be forced to close the barn doors. Unlikely, but not impossible. I personally know someone who knows someone who knows exactly who those 5-10 engineers are by name, email, and telephone number.
Langue c’est pouvoir
Many companies still think that social media is kids stuff. Many companies are in denial that social media can be a severe disruption to their operations. Many companies struggle with the paradox of exposing themselves to the new power of the consumer and employee priorities at the same level as Wall Street priorities.
The language is changing – the conversation is changing. Social Media taxonomy is a full frontal attack on the culture of the old economic paradigm. Whoever knows the new language is powerful, whoever does not – is vulnerable.