One of the many interesting outcomes from peforming engagement analytics (www.ibm.com/engage) is that you get to observe enterprise-wide patterns of social behaviors. This process of organizational self-reflection raises many interesting questions and uncovers some potentially surprising answers.
One question at the top of my list is “What drives people to share openly”. Social sharing isn’t necessarily the most intuitive thing to do since every time you share you are giving up some of your own personal power to a nebulous collection of people, handing over some of your intellectual capital without any guarantee that you will get any return on investment, putting your reputation on the line by releasing your work for criticism or even ridicule. Therefore in order to openly share you have to fundamentally believe in the power of the network; you have to believe that in the longer term the value of what you get back from the network is greater than what you give out. One conclusion that may be drawn is that people who don’t openly share are protecting their power and don’t appreciate the value of networked knowledge. However I am no longer convinced that this is the case.
Just looking at social sharing inside the enterprise, fear of sharing is much more complex and one of the issues that has been recently brought to my attention is the fear of sharing content that you are not allowed to share. This is a really tricky one since there are valid reasons to keep information Confidential limiting access, even inside the enterprise, to those with a “need to know”. However, it really is a social mood killer (fear of being wrapped on the knuckles tends to do that to people) and essentially makes information unavailable for open sharing. Therefore as a label, it needs to be carefully managed in any social and collaborative business.
I’m definitely not qualified to give advice on when things should be labelled Confidential or what to do once they are. However as someone who is extremely open in all my communcations (obsessively so at times), I can share my approach; and its very simple. Firstly, I personally avoid creating Confidential information unless I really need to. Secondly, if I need to create something Confidential then I keep it in Files or Activites where sharing can be controlled to those small groups with a “need to know”. Thirdly, I keep it away from social properties like communities, blogs, forums, wikis, etc. which are more naturally open in nature and may create risk of “over sharing”.