Charlie says here's a history lesson to open up innovation in your organisation

by Dan Slee

Generally it takes a cartoon cat and a rave track for good quality public information to stay in my head.

Charlie says don't knock around with strangers is priceless advice from the 1970s.

Nice of the Prodigy to update this advice with their track 'Charlie' but they really didn't have to.

One such effective point of public information I find myself referring to is from Tom Watson MP. 

In 2009 he came to talk at the short-lived Black Country Social Media Cafe. Tom has a reputation for taking on Rupert Murdoch in the phone hacking scandal but back then he was already well regarded by the internet community for his role as a blogger, advancing the cause of open data and opening up the civil service. Much of his talk has stayed with me.

What really resonates to a communications person like myself was five points I'm calling for the sake of argument Tom Watson's Management Innovation Refusal Timeline.

People historically don't like innovation.

Managers historically don't like innovation in the workplace.

It takes time for them to see that changes can bring benefits.

But with the perspective of history these barriers that can be thrown-up are shown to be sandcastles against the tide.

To an enlightened public relations person who knows that spin is dead and the conversation is key the ability to open up social media access is one of the big communications challenges. Many organisations have developing social media presences but stop staff from accessing at work. That's denying yourself va big army of advocates.

Will Perrin, of Talk About Local, pointed me at this handy chart that shows how innovation can spread through an organisation. Sometimes its reassuring to know there is a theory behind your aparent innovating madness. You can read it here.

The Management Innovation Refusal Timeline.

In 1952 managers said...

"I really don't think telephone access for staff is a good idea. You'll all be messing about and doing no work."

In 1982 managers said...

"I really don't think PC access for staff is a good idea. You'll all be messing about and doing no work. Have a telephone instead."

In 1993 managers said...

"I really don't think internet access for staff is a good idea. You'll all be messing about and doing no work. Have a PC and telephone instead."

In 1998 managers said...

"I really don't think email access for staff is a good idea. You'll all be messing about and doing no work. Have a PC, telephone and internet instead."

In 2012 managers said...

"I really don't think social media access for staff is a good idea. You'll all be messing about and doing no work. Have a PC, telephone and email instead."

As ever, history can teach such a lot.

Dan Slee is senior press and publicity officer at Walsall Council.