Manifesto for “self expression” inside organizations

Half of organizations do not facilitate self expression

There are some basic human rights of self-expression that are still out of reach for employees in over half the organizations if we base ourselves on what they can do in their digital workplace.

Organizations with the entire workforce co-located are rare. Most organizations have people in different sites and many have people in different countries. Digital capabilities are therefore a key way to communicating and collaborating.

Let’s take 4 very basic examples of what a person might need.

“I should be able to…”

  • Describe myself, share information about myself with others in the organization,
  • Share my information and my ideas openly,
  • React to ideas of other people openly,
  • Participate openly in developing new ideas and innovations.”

These are pretty basic human rights! I’ve looked at my data from 7 years of research about intranets and digital workplaces and have seen that these capabilities still do not exist in the digital workplace of nearly half the organizations today.

Inching forward to reach stagnation?

We have seen some progress over the years, but seem to have arrived at a point of stagnation. Note that the figures below represent the responses “available enterprise-wide” and “available in some parts of the organization” and are survey averages for the full survey populations of the years listed. They do not reflect early adopters. The reference year is the year the data was collected.

  • Describing myself: 47%

47 percent of organizations have rich profiles today, up from 22 percent 5 years ago. (Data from 2008 through 2012.) Rich profiles let people describe their experience, expertise, skills, interests and activities themselves.

  • Sharing my information and ideas: 50%

50 percent of organizations enable people to express their ideas and share information in what is often referred to as “user-generated content”. This means there are tools in place (such as blogs or wikis) that let people publish information without going through official intranet publishers. The figure has crept up gradually but is now stalled at 50 percent (30 percent in 2007, 35 percent in 2008, 45 percent in both 2009 and 2010, 50 percent in both 2011 and 2012.)

  • Reacting to other peoples’ ideas: 40%

40 percent of organizations offer people the capability of making comments on articles and posts published internally. This figure has remained constant over the last three years. (Data from 2010 through 2012.)

  • Innovating with others: 25 to 30%

From 25 to 30 percent of organizations have implemented ways for people to contribute ideas through open innovation activities such as ideation programs, crowdsourcing and idea banks. (Data from 2010 through 2012.)

The digital divide is here

Do a bit of research in your organization. Ask the people around you if they feel they can do the following, openly and easily with colleagues in other locations:

  • Describe themselves, their experience and expertise
  • Share their information and ideas
  • React to ideas of other people
  • Participate openly in developing new ideas and innovations

We know that even if these digital capabilities are present, it can often be a challenge to evolve towards a way of working where people communicate and collaborate freely and openly. But the figures above illustrate the sad fact that in many organizations, people do not even have these capabilities.

I fear we have reached a digital divide where organizations fall into the ‘have’ or the ‘have not’ category when it comes to digital capabilities. Given how the world is moving today and using digital capabilities for amazing things, the slow majority need to speed up or be left behind.

This post was first published on 6 May 2013 on

If you’d like to participate in this year’s Digital Workplace Trends survey, read about the “why” of the survey, check the frequently-asked questions, and sign up!




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