Do the Crime, Do the Time?

Computer Crime

Friedman (2007) provides the flat world enabled people across the globe to communicate, create, collaborate, and grow.  At the same time, Friedman (2007) acknowledges the flattening of the world presented challenges.  Taking inspiration from Friedman (2007), cyber-crime is any criminal act dealing with computers and networks (Webopedia website, n.d.).  Moreover, computer crime pervades society.  Thus, the author of this blog could not lend details for all of the computer hazards; thus, he focused on a few crimes such as cyber threats, cyber terrorism, identity theft, fraud, child predators, and child pornography.  Next, the author of this blog supplies background of these threats and concludes by applying computer ethics to computer crimes.  First, he examines cyber threats.

According the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), cyber threats will soon rival terrorism as the primary danger facing the United States (Clayton, 2013).  Cyber threats involve computer intrusions or break-ins by hackers to exploit computer networks (Clayton, 2013).  These hackers break into computer systems to steal information or diffuse viruses to infect computers.  Viruses are malicious kinds of software that challenge computer security (The Stanford encyclopedia of philosophy, 2008)

Cyber terrorism is a large cyber threat for the United States.  Traditionally, terrorists attempted to impose physical harm through bombs and airplanes.  With the proliferation of computers and the internet, cyber terrorists target destroying the infrastructure of the United States by attacking the power supply (Clayton, 2013).  To illustrate, the cyber terrorist’s intent is to cause havoc by bringing down the banking system, the backbone of the United States financial system.  Imagine the widespread chaos if automated teller machines went blank and people could not access money to buy basic essentials of food and water!  Adding fuel to the fire, smartphones would be inoperable making personal and business communication difficult.  Thus, cyber terrorism’s goal is to create panic and thereby a systemic breakdown.

Another cyber threat is identity theft, which is a type of fraud.  The author’s organization of employment is a financial services corporation, which regularly encounters identify theft.  Identify theft is a fraud using the identifying information of another person without the proper authority usually for economic gain (Department of Justice website, n.d.).  In 2003, Federal Trade Commission research indicated that nearly 10 million Americans were victims of identity theft the preceding year (Federal Trade Commission website, 2003).  An example of identity theft is a person steals an investor’s demographic data such as name, social security number, and address, calls into the customer-service phone center or logs onto the website to change the address on an account, and redeems the entire account to the new address.  Another example outside of the author’s business is the misuse of a stolen credit card to purchase merchandise online.

Other types of fraud his company experiences are phishing, pharming, and key-logging.  First, phishing is when a criminal attempts to steal personal information from an investor using an unsolicited, genuine looking email with a link to a fake website (Business ID Theft website, n.d.).  Second, pharming is when a criminal hacks into a computer to redirect online traffic from a legitimate website to a fake one and captures the information the investor enters (Business ID Theft website, n.d.).  Finally, key-logging is when a criminal deploys hidden programs in counterfeit emails or websites to record the investor’s keystrokes and steal information (Webopedia website, n.d.).  In essence, the objective of criminal’s fraudulent activities in targeting his organization is to steal investor’s money!  From an overall business perspective, only 22 percent of surveyed cases detected and stopped fraud (Business ID Theft website, n.d.); transaction methods such as credit and debit card fraud, fraudulent wire transfers, fraudulent ACH, and fraudulent bill pay transfers enabled criminals through computers (Business ID Theft website, n.d.).  Furthermore, fraud experts caution the Holiday Season is the prime time of year for criminals to commit online fraud (Weisbaum, 2013).  To explain, criminals deploy magnitudes of viruses targeting mobile devices by installing spyware to steal online shopper’s names, passwords, and credit card information (Weisbaum, 2013).  Given this hectic time of year, Holiday shoppers are wise to be on alert for suspicious activities when making gift purchases through smartphones or the internet.

Other computer crimes are child predators and child pornography.  Sad to say, child predators lure children into meeting them over the internet.  For example, the predator uses a social media website such was Facebook to lure a potential victim.  To combat these despicable predators, parents access the family watchdog website where sex offenders are registered (Family Watchdog website, n.d.).  However, the best defense is to educate children on detecting and preventing predators.  Another deplorable criminal act is child pornography.  Enough said.  As demonstrated above, computer crime is pervasive and the author next applies computer ethics to it.

Ethical application

An early pioneer for ethics and computers, Wiener (1954) provides the purpose of human life is to flourish as the information-processing organisms that humans are by taking in a wide diversity of information and processing it ways that constitute reasoning, calculating, wondering, deliberating, and deciding.  Today, the internet enabled leaders to have vast amounts of information.  Similar to Wiener (1954), leaders process this boundless information and make decisions.  However, in processing the information, the dark side tempts some leaders.  Moor (1985) explains computers provided humans with new capabilities, which, in turn, gave humans new choices for action.  In the case of computer crimes, people make poor moral decisions while processing the information.  Moreover, the internet provides criminals anonymity (The Stanford encyclopedia of philosophy, 2008).  Under the mask of the internet, criminals are apt to take more risks compared to if they had to show their face.  At the end of the day, internet crime comes down to the leader’s moral character.  To illustrate, investors trust the author’s organization to safeguard not only their assets but their confidential information.  His CEO often states one violation such as a lost social security number of our shareholder’s trust would hurt the entire organization.  Thus, security of the company’s website and confidentiality of the investor’s private information is critical to his organization.

Greed such as identity theft or fraud and downright evil such as cyber-terrorism, child predators, and child pornography motivate computer criminals.  In turn, the Federal Government has strategies to stop these computer crimes.  For example, the FBI leads the National Cyber Investigative Joint Task Force, a group of 19 intelligence, military, and law enforcement agencies to prevent future terrorists attacks (Clayton, 2013).  With rapid change in technologies, computer criminals appear to be one-step ahead of the law.  Vigilant citizens are the best defense to computer crimes.  What do you think?

References

Business ID Theft website. (n.d.). http://www.businessidtheft.org/Education/BusinessIDTheftScams/CyberCrime/tabid/107/Default.aspx

Clayton, M. (2013). FBI as cyber crime sleuth:  Is it any match for computer bad guys? Retrieved from http://www.csmonitor.com/World/Security-Watch/2013/1118/FBI-as-cyber-crime-sleuth-Is-it-any-match-for-computer-bad-guys

Department of Justice website. (n.d.). http://www.justice.gov

Family Watchdog website. (n.d.). http://www.familywatchdog.us/

Federal Trade Commission website. (2003). http://www.ftc.gov/os/2003/09/synovatereport.pdf

Friedman, T. L. (2007). The world is flat (3rd ed.). New York, NY: Picador.

Moor, J. (1985). What is computer ethics? Metaphilosophy, 16(4), 266-275.

The Stanford encyclopedia of philosophy. (2008). http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/ethics-computer/

Webopedia website. (n.d.). http://www.webopedia.com

Weisbaum, H. (2013). Fraud alert:  How to prevent holiday-related identify theft. Retrieved from http://www.nbcnews.com/business/fraud-alert-how-prevent-holiday-related-identity-theft-2D11603379

Wiener, N. (1954). The human use of human beings: cybernetics and society (2nd ed.). New York, NY: Doubleday Anchor.

Mother may I work from home?

Introduction 

The author of this blog analyzes telecommuting, enabled by widely available internet access, based on his experience with his organization of employment.  Robbins & Judge (2012) provide telecommuting is working from home at least two days a week on a computer linked to the employer’s office; Friedman’s (2007) flat world of the internet, email, laptops, and smartphones permitted telecommuting.  Traditionally, his company’s policy required all employees physically report to a building for work.  However, his company has a continuous organizational goal to be a best place to work.  To meet this goal, his firm adopted a new policy in 2011 to allow employees to work remotely two or three days a week.  Next, the author examines the benefits, challenges, and mitigation strategies for working remotely under the lens of employees and organizations.

Benefits

Remote working yields both employee and organizational benefits.  For employees, it affords flexibility, reduces costs, and saves time.  Telecommuting employees enjoy flexibility to do their job from anywhere virtually anytime.  To illustrate, the author travels several days a week for his job and working remotely allows him to stay connected on the road with what is transpiring with his clients.  By connecting his laptop to hotel Wifi, accessing a virtual private network at home, or using his blackberry, he can work when and where he chooses.  Madden & Jones (2008) provide 80% of wired and ready workers say technology tools allowed them flexibility in the hours they worked.  For example, if the author has a flight to catch at eleven in the morning for a business trip, he does not waste time traveling to the office.  Rather, he works from home in the morning by connecting to work through a virtual private network on the internet and subsequently goes directly to the airport.  Moreover, his job affords flexibility to attend functions such as watching a daughter’s school play in the morning or coaching a son’s baseball game in the afternoon without missing a beat at work.  Finally, working remotely reduces employee transportation costs and saves employee commute time.  Bednarz (2013) provides if telework employees worked remotely half the time, employees gain two to three weeks of free time per year and save between $2,000 and $7,000 dollars in annual transportation costs.

Organizations also realize benefits such as improved employee happiness and job satisfaction, reduced costs, and better talent management from telecommuting.  To illustrate, his organization’s goal for working remotely is making employees happy and thereby improving job satisfaction; Bednarz (2013) explains teleworkers are happier, productivity rises, and people achieve better work life balance.  Another benefit is working remotely allows the author’s company to save money.  With the state of the economy, his company uses telecommuting as a perk to motivate employees because it has not been in a position to give employees substantial raises.  Furthermore, his company saves because it reduced the size of cubicles to incent employees to work remotely.  Along the same lines, Bednarz (2013) provides if telework employees worked remotely half the time, companies could save more than $500 billion a year in real estate, electricity absenteeism, turnover, and productivity costs.  A final benefit to the organization is retaining and attracting talent, which is the lifeblood of any organization.  By allowing workers to work remotely, his organization is consistent with competitors for whom potential candidates may consider.  In essence, telecommuting provides a job attributes today’s professional workers covet.  However, telecommuting is not perfect and presents both employee and organizational challenges, which the author reviews next.

Challenges

Turning to challenges, telecommuting employees often experience isolation, over connectivity, and communication gaps.  To illustrate, when the author works from home, he often feels isolated from his boss and peers; he misses the interactions the office facilitates.  At the same time, the author ironically feels constantly connected to the office.  Whether working from home or using his blackberry when outside his home or the office, the author constantly checks his work email all day, every day!  Therefore, the lines between work and his personal life start to blend.  Likewise, Madden & Jones (2008) provide 49% of wired and ready workers say technology makes it harder for them to disconnect from their work when they are at home or on weekends.  Finally, the author finds some communication challenges using technology.  In particular, challenging conversations such as communicating bad news often lose something when done via email, instant messenger, or skype.  Madden & Jones (2008) explain employed email users express preferences for in-person communication when it comes to questions about work, dealing with sensitive issues, or bringing up problems to a supervisor.  Similarly, the author provides developmental feedback face to face to his team because it often goes better based on his experience.  That way, he adds a human element to the process.

Remote worker organizations also experience challenges such as productivity, accountability, and information sharing.  Employees are often distracted which decreases the organization’s productivity when working from home compared to the office.  For example, the author typically has the television on in the background when he is working from home.  Bednarz (2013) provides teleworkers top distractions are household chores, television, pets, errands, the internet, and children.  Adding fuel to the fire, employers are often challenged in how to hold employees accountable in a remote environment.  When employees slack in a virtual environment, how does the organization know about it to enforce corrective action?  Likewise, Bednarz (2013) states some workplace metrics are impossible to measure.  Finally, organizations that promote telecommuting often miss information sharing via informal discussions around the office water cooler.  The author’s experience is that these types of conversations are usually critical information shared through the grapevine.  Ostensibly, telecommute organizations should concern themselves with this information gap.

Mitigation strategies

To reiterate, telecommuting benefits employees and organizations; however, it also presents challenges for both.  To that end, the author develops strategies to mitigate the challenges.

Below are strategies for employees:

  • To avoid distractions, create an in-home office.
  • Plan a schedule that balances working at the office and remotely.
  • Use good judgment when deciding between going to the office versus working from home.
  • Limit use of technology and email during evenings, vacations, weekends, and holidays.

Below are strategies for leaders:

  • Assess if the position is compatible with remote working.
  • Communicate expectations for productivity to remote worker employees.
  • Set clear and transparent metrics for performance.
  • Encourage employees to come to the office for critical conversations, such as major issues at work, meetings with bosses, or staff meetings to share information.

Jarche’s leadership implications

Jarche (2013) provides how organizations are shifting from hierarchical to networks.  In particular, Jarche (2013) states networks are the new companies whereby networked workers do not need bosses because work is transparent.  Rather, managers create bottlenecks (Jarche, 2013).  Jarche’s (2013) view resonated with the author of this blog because the expertise to solve his client problems lies with his virtual teams.  For example, if a client enrolls people into a company sponsored 401(k) plan that are not employees, he does not seek guidance from his boss.  Rather, he sets up a virtual meeting with his team of experts to brainstorm solutions.  A compliance consultant is part of the team and crucial to the vetting process.  The author of this blog has been doing his job for 8 years.  Therefore, he does not require his boss’s help the vast majority of the time.  However, a limitation of Jarche’s (2013) view of bosses is new employees who look above for guidance and support.  What do you think?

Looking into the future, workers may hold several jobs with different employers at the same time.  Both Jarche’s (2013) networks and working remotely marry well with this type of environment.  Does your organization practice working remotely?  If so, what are the pros, cons, and mitigation strategies you see?  If not, do you think your organization should adopt working remotely?

References

Bednarz, A. (2013). Is Yahoo’s telework ban shortsighted or savvy?  Data says both. Retrieved from http://www.networkworld.com/news/2013/022813-yahoo-telework-267219.html

Friedman, T. L. (2007). The world is flat (3rd ed.). New York, NY: Picador.

Jarche, H. (2013, November 5).  [Blog post]. Retrieved from http://www.jarche.com/2013/11/networks-are-the-new-companies/

Madden, M., & Jones, S. (2008). Networked workers. Retrieved from http://www.pewinternet.org/Reports/2008/Networked-Workers.aspx

Robbins, S. P., & Judge, T. A. (2012). Essentials of organizational behavior (11th ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall.

The Internet is a Beauty and a Beast?

Reflect on how the nature of work is changing due to the web and implications to leadership.  In particular, what take aways do you take from Shirky’s talk and leadership in today’s world.  Is “open” a given in leadership today? 

Strengths

As the United States moved to the information age, the internet changed the nature of work.  Specific to discipline of business, corporations became more efficient and globally connected through advances in web technology.  To start, a shift in work from employees to customers made corporations more efficient.  Friedman (2007) describes the self-directed consumer whereby companies create platforms that allow customers to serve themselves in their own way on their own time.  Along the same lines, customers today book flights, order tickets for a professional sporting event, or send flowers to a significant other anytime online.  Turning to the author’s organization in financial services, another example of Friedman’s (2007) self-directed consumer is when investors setup individual retirement accounts (IRA) online, provide e-signatures to legally authorize the accounts, and supply instructions to begin deductions from the investor’s bank accounts.  Prior to the web, this workflow required mountains of paperwork, involved numerous employees, and took several weeks to complete.  Fast forward to today, investors complete the new IRA account process in a few days.  Furthermore, opening an IRA is just one of the many workflows, previously done by employees, which investors complete on the internet today.  Ostensibly, the internet reduced cycle time, improved productivity, and thereby made the company more efficient.      

On a global picture, the internet made the world smaller by connecting people in different countries through Friedman’s (2007) universal platform for multiple forms of sharing work and knowledge.  As a byproduct of the dot.com collapse, Friedman (2007) provides the fiber optic cables laid across the ocean enabled global connectivity and companies who did not previously have access to employees in different countries now connect and collaborate with each other.  To illustrate, the author’s company has international operations in Asia, Australia, Canada, Continental Europe, Mexico, South America, and the United Kingdom; employees communicate easily across the globe through the internet using tools such as email, instant messenger, and video conferencing.  However, business leaders in the workplace today must be more skilled in interacting with people from different cultures.  Friedman (2007) provides globalization means everyone is not going to look, speak, and think the same.     

Weaknesses

Staying with connectivity, a downside of the internet on work is that employees never get away.  Gartner (2010) provides work will happen 24 hours a day, seven days a week (“Gartner 10 work changes,” 2010).  Similarly, technology connects the author to his workplace all the time.  Armed with a blackberry and laptop computer loaded with programs needed to do his job, the author has nowhere to hide and the expectation of his clients is that he is available any time of the day including weekends, holidays, and vacations!  Due to the constant connectivity, the blending of work and family occurs.  In contrast, his father escaped the workplace when he physically left the office.  To combat burnout, leaders should seek opportunities to unplug from the world (Friedman, 2007) to get respite and return to work refreshed and invigorated!    

Another downside is some American’s skills became too expensive or obsolete.  The pressure is on American workers to perform or risk employment.  To illustrate, a potential impact of outsourcing is American workers lose their jobs to foreign countries.  Friedman (2007) provides parts of work that can be done cheaper in other countries will be outsourced there.  As another example, the author has a New York City law firm as a client who recently shared the advances in technology around email, automated dictation, and electronic scanning of documents made administrative assistants irrelevant to first and second year attorneys.  Similar to Friedman’s (2007) self-directed consumer, these attorneys prefer to complete the work themselves through technology.  As a result, the firm let go several administrative assistants because their skills were obsolete.  Being laid off can be a traumatic life event; however, it also may present opportunities.

Opportunities

Advances in technology and the internet created opportunities for the type of work employees do.  To explain, Gartner (2010) states the de-routinization of work is where employees value add is not in a process that can be automated but in the non-routine processes that are uniquely human, analytical, or interactive (“Gartner 10 work changes,” 2010).  The author observes the movement to value added services as a big opportunity for his organization.  To illustrate, returning to the aforementioned IRA example, the internet enabled the process to remove human interaction.  As a result, the company’s employees freed up to perform more value added services.  To hone employee skills, the company educated and infused Certified Financial Planners throughout its business to answer complex questions investors have about IRAs.  In this work environment, employees must continuously adapt and evolve or risk being left behind and leaders must be forthright with the plans for employees.  How has the internet changed your organization?   

Leadership

With the ever-evolving nature of business shaped by technology and changes in consumer tastes, leaders today operate in an environment of constant change.  Therefore, a leader’s role is to provide transparency and a vision of the future to followers.  To illustrate, many employees at the author’s company were concerned when the internet started to perform tasks previously done by employees.  Historically, the company has a policy of not laying employees off and the CEO reiterates this message to employees.  However, he does not guarantee employees will do the same job as they might today.  Thus, the CEO’s transparency is critical in employees understanding the rules of the game! 

Shirky

Shirky (2012) provides how open source programming can change democracy.  In reflecting on Shirky (2012), the author’s take away is that Shirky’s (2012) form of arguing is evident in business.  To illustrate, companies and entrepreneurs provide products and services to the marketplace.  Customers have a voice by choosing whether to purchase the product or service.  Moreover, customers contact the company through its website, telephone, or social media to provide feedback.  The implication to business leaders is that they must act as what Shirky’s (2012) calls a GIT or version control to listen to customer feedback and make changes if necessary.  Shirky (2012) would point out a limitation is this form of GIT is not distributed.  However, companies own the rights to its products and services.  In essence, a leader brings order in the many customer voices from chaos and thereby improves the product or service.    

Shirky (2012) defines open as if you do an experiment and publish a claim, people do not trust you unless you show them how you did the experiment.  In contrast, Coca-Cola does not provide customers with the special formula to make the beverage.  Yet, Coca-Cola would claim it offers the best soft drink in the world and customers trust Coca-Cola.  Similarly, the author’s company does not provide the mathematical equation for indexing mutual funds.  His organization claims it is the best indexer and investors trust his organization manages the mutual funds with prudence.  However, business leaders who violate the public’s trust should consider Shirky’s (2012) openness.  For example, British Petroleum was transparent with its plans when faced with the crisis of cleaning up the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.  It investigated the incident, provided a report of what happened, and communicated a plan to fix the issue.  The implication for leadership is that customers trust you until they receive information that changes their mind.  Friedman (2007) provides we are all paparazzi with our cell phone cameras and everybody is fair game and news.  With the prevalence of smartphones with cameras, video, and internet access, companies are wise to practice Shirky’s (2012) openness during a time of crisis.  What do you think?  

References

Friedman, T. L. (2007). The world is flat (3rd ed.). New York, NY: Picador.

Gartner says the world of work will witness 10 changes during the next 10 years. (2010). Retrieved from http://www.gartner.com/newsroom/id/1416513

Shirky, C. (2012, September 25). How the internet will (one day) transform government [Video file]. Retrieved from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CEN4XNth61o&feature=youtu.be

This is Not your Father’s Knowledge Management!

Reflect on Friedman’s concept of the triple convergence and its relationship to knowledge management.  If knowledge is now socially developed, what is the role of leadership in knowledge management? 

As the United Sates moved from an industrial to a service economy, knowledge management became a key competitive advantage and forward thinking organizations continuously advance organizational knowledge practices to compete in the marketplace.  In essence, Dixon (2009) describes knowledge management as evolving from repositories to communities of practice to collective knowledge.  In this new paradigm of collective knowledge, knowledge management is collaborative effort that permeates an entire organization.  Dixon (2009) explains collective knowledge is integrating ideas through conversation whether in person or virtual from multiple perspectives; Friedman’s (2007) convergence to a flat platform enabled by the internet and sound business practices marries well with collective knowledge.  To illustrate, social media enables conversation because many organizations have global operations and therefore employ people all over the world.  For these organizations, geography is a barrier to collaboration and the internet links these employees to provide diversity of thought in the knowledge management process.  Likewise, technologies such as skype enable conversations to happen across the globe.  Dixon (2009) also provides organizations facing adaptive challenges, which lack a defined solution, look to entities outside its walls such as customers, suppliers, or experts from different disciplines.  These web tools of social media and skype easily enable conversations with these outside entities in the knowledge management process.

Friedman (2007) provides another convergence as several billion people in China, India, and the Soviet Union available to collaborate on knowledge management.  However, a limitation in this convergence (Friedman, 2007) is the information is dated.  Bringing this convergence (Friedman, 2007) forward to today, as more people from developing countries come online, they can converse with the developed world.

Applying knowledge management to the author of this blog’s own organization of employment, he sees evidence of practices because his company uses a knowledge management repository and shares information through communities of practice.  For routine tasks with known solutions (Dixon, 2009), employees at his organization access a repository to obtain standard operating procedures; an example is when his company receives a withdrawal request from an investor’s retirement account, employees access standard operating procedures to process the transaction.  For adaptive challenges, employees use communities of practice by discussing the situation in open forums with peers to leverage the group’s experience to suggest solutions.  However, the author does not witness his organization leveraging the latest in knowledge management.  To illustrate, his company does not use social media in the knowledge management process.  Moreover, Dixon (2009) provides transparency involves a leader acknowledges they do not have the answer.  Conversely, the author’s organization uses a top-down structure where the CEO provides goals and employees carry out the marching orders.  The author’s observation is that his CEO would never admit in front of employees that he does have the answers!

Because knowledge is socially developed, leadership’s role is to put structure in place to ensure the knowledge management process transpires.  Dixon (2009) states knowledge management leaders are responsible for identifying adaptive challenges and convening conversations with the right people to tackle the issues.  Honest information from employees is the lifeblood to this process and leaders build trust in an organization by promoting an environment where information exchanges easily and free from repercussion.  To reiterate, the internet accomplishes the flow of information by enabling employees to share information and thereby break down hierarchical walls.  Looking into the horizon, the internet and technology continue to evolve.  Who knows what the next technology will be?  To advance an organization, leaders should find ways to leverage technology strategically to facilitate organizational sharing of information.  A leader’s responsibility is to make sure the process happens!

References

Dixon, N. (2009, July 30). Knowledge Management [Blog post]. Retrieved from http://www.nancydixonblog.com/2009/07/where-knowledge-management-has-been-and-where-it-is-going-part-three.html

Friedman, T. L. (2007). The world is flat (3rd ed.). New York, NY: Picador.

Facebook rules the World?

What is Facebook?

Hart (2013) ranks Facebook as number nine on her list of top 100 tools for learning and, unless you have been living under a rock :), most people know what Facebook is.  In case you do not, Facebook is a social media website that enables people to network by sharing information and photos; it is a dominant social force evidenced by 1.3 billion users (Smith, 2013) across multitudinous countries.  To demonstrate Facebook’s functionality, the author of this blog lives in Philadelphia, PA and Facebook allows him to keep track of his three nieces who live five hours drive away in Pittsburgh, PA.  As we speak, he is checking Facebook to see his niece’s costumes for Halloween.  However, Facebook is so much more because it allows people to express themselves as individuals!  To explain, people take to Facebook to comment on daily events such as having a baby, buying a new car, or getting a new pet.  Moreover, people often comment on world events like the United States Presidential election or Super Bowl and Shirky (2009) describes these events as shared social experiences.  Finally, Facebook allows people to reconnect who may not otherwise get the chance.  For instance, the author found high school friends through Facebook after 15 years passed and subsequently met them for dinner.

In comparing Friedman (2007), uploading and the steroids are two of his ten-flattener forces that enabled Facebook.  Friedman (2007) describes downloading as the sharing of photos and videos, which is core functionality to Facebook.  However, Facebook would not be as successful without what Friedman (2007) defines as steroids which amplify and empower forms of collaboration.  To illustrate, the proliferation of smartphones and tablets such as the Ipad in developed countries enabled users to access Facebook anytime and anywhere.  Next, the author discusses applications of Facebook to business.

Business applications for leaders

Applying Facebook to the discipline of business, leaders today develop a strategy for social media based on goals of the company and the demographic it covets.  Based on this analysis, leaders decide if a social media presence fits with their organization.  If they desire a presence on Facebook, leaders can utilize tools such as advertising, Facebook pages, and Facebook groups.  For example, some companies pay Facebook to advertise to its 1.3 billion users (Smith, 2013) across the globe.  However, if companies do not want to pay for advertising, businesses can setup a Facebook page where users hit a like button to receive content.  To manifest the power of Facebook pages, the author of this blog works for a financial services firm and reaching the millennial generation challenges the company.  To motivate these potential young investors, the firm setup a Facebook page where it targets content touting the benefits of investing, compounding, and saving for retirement for these echo-boomers.  The goal is to speak to these young investors in their preferred medium.  Finally, leaders can setup a closed group to communicate with members on their team.  For example, the author’s cohort for Creighton’s doctoral program in leadership setup a closed Facebook group to facilitate conversations among students; the author’s observation is the cohort group page made his cohort much closer.  Leaders in business could utilize a similar approach.  If your organization uses Facebook, how does it do so?

Downsides

The largest downside for leaders to consider in using Facebook is privacy.  To illustrate, privacy groups are irritated that Facebook’s new policy allows it to use personal data about users for advertising purposes (Guarini, 2013).  The author of this blog thinks the recent changes by Facebook violate user’s personal space and, as leaders, we must stand up for what we think is equitable.  Some users already took a stand by leaving Facebook; Vibes (2013) reports 11 million Facebook users dropped because of privacy concerns.  The number seems like a drop in the bucket compared to 1.3 billion users (Smith, 2013); however, a movement starts with one!

Along similar lines, another downside for leaders to consider for Facebook is its future relevancy.  With the continual evolution of technology, leaders should have a pulse if users move away from Facebook.  If you do not think it can happen, recall Myspace, the predecessor to Facebook.  Leadership entails strategizing to anticipate when users move to the next big thing and being in a position to capitalize on the opportunity!

On a more macro level, parents are the ultimate leaders.  Facebook’s downside for children is possible exposure to predators or bullying.  Therefore, parents must be vigilant with regard to their children and their usage of Facebook.  For example, many of the author’s friends do not allow their children on Facebook until a certain age such as 16.  Furthermore, once children join Facebook, many parents monitor the child’s activities on the website.  Regardless, parents should take the necessary precautions to safeguard their children.  Changing gears from Facebook, the author next analyzes instant messenger.

Instant messenger

Instant messenger changed this author’s life at work!  In reviewing Hart’s (2013) list of top 100 tools for learning, the author’s experience is instant messenger applications such as WhatsApp improve client experiences and productivity.  Although the author’s organization does not use WhatsApp, his company utilizes a similar internal system.  As background, his company elevated a new instant messenger system for employees about a year ago and he leads multiple client service teams.  Prior to the elevation, his teams gathered in a room for client conference calls and put the phone on and off mute to answer questions about a service, product, or project; in essence, the calls felt choppy.  With the new company instant messenger system, he directs his teams where to take conversations real-time during client conference calls.  For example, if a client asks a question for which he does not know the answer, he sends an instant message to request help from an expert on the team.  Furthermore, if a member of the team introduces a sensitive topic, unbeknownst to that person, to the client, the author sends an instant message requesting the team member cut the conversation.  The result is a better experience for clients.

Productivity is another benefit to instant messenger.  To illustrate, the author receives calls from clients on a regular basis regarding the status of financial transactions, such as an employee’s loan or withdrawal from their 401(k).  Previously, he instructed the client he would call them back after researching the request with the processing team.  Now with instant messenger, he can chat real-time with the processing person responsible to get a status and rely it immediately to the client.  Think of the time saved; that is real power!  Does your organization use company instant messenger?  If so, what is your experience?  If not, do you think your organization would benefit by doing so?

References

Friedman, T. L. (2007). The world is flat (3rd ed.). New York, NY: Picador.

Guarini, D. (2013). Hold your gaps, Facebook is under fire for its privacy policy again. Retrieved from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/09/05/facebook-privacy-ftc_n_3873764.html

Hart, J. (2013). Top 100 tools for learning 2013. Retrieved from http://c4lpt.co.uk/top100tools/

Shirky, C. (2009, June 16). Clay Shirky:  How cellphones, Twitter, Facebook can make history [Video file]. Retrieved from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c_iN_QubRs0&feature=youtu.be

Smith, C. (2013). How many people use 275 of the top social media, apps & services? Retrieved from http://expandedramblings.com/index.php/resource-how-many-people-use-the-top-social-media/

Vibes, J. (2013). 11 million users drop Facebook over privacy concerns. Retrieved from http://intellihub.com/2013/09/18/11-million-users-drop-facebook-privacy-concerns/