Social Media and the Enterprise - a follow up thought

Something occurred to me in the panel discussion I moderated at Mesh '08 earlier today - something I wanted to say at the time, but didn't want to chew up precious discussion time listening to my own voice. I'd already babbled on far too long in my dopey Star Trek-inspired intro.

The lady from Harlequin, Jenny Bullough, said one of the smartest things on the general topic of employee training, blogging policies, and social media best practices - she summarized Harlequin's advice to staff as: "don't do anything stupid". Amen to that.

The anecdote I was tempted to recount at this point is one I've referenced several times in the past. It's still one of my favourites, and particularly appropriate in this context, I think.

Many years ago, my friend Doc Searls introduced me to a story about a guy named Earl Gilmore (now sadly dead, alas). Earl founded a software company called Business Application Systems some time around 1980. This was way back when you could call a startup something as simple and literal as "Business Application Systems" without fear of ambiguity.

As Doc tells it, when's company started to grow, he felt it necessary to put an employee manual together. Earl's entire manual consisted of two pages, with one rule per page:

Rule #1: Use good judgement.
Rule #2: Violate Rule #1 and you're in deep shit.

To my mind, that still stands as one of the best, general purpose, all-encompassing policies I've ever come across - and one that's pretty close to the spirit of the approach Harlequin is taking. Good for them. OK, so it wouldn't pass muster with many corporate lawyers and gimungous HR or internal legal departments - but if you hire well, trust people, manage with clarity, and have confidence in their judgement, I think it works.

Blog smart. Or get dooced.