The news today that Facebook has thrown its "doors" open to developers reminded me that I've been wanting to post on the subject of social networking, getting outside input into your operations, adding value online etc.
First, social networking. Last week, I did two speeches on generation change in Chicago and Fort Wayne. A number of younger folks came up to me and talked about the barriers to being on boards of directors. I asked them--what would you think about a social network space just for your board? In the group, everyone under 35 said "Yes!", everyone over said "huh?"
Social network sites have great potential for users of your services, for educating people (think parents groups for kids with autism) or a group of staff that work specifically in one area of your organization. While MySpace and Facebook are the big dogs in this area, options like YahooGroups and Ning (my personal favorite) are also out there. They are free, easy (particularly Ning) and are a great option to reach out into your community.
Adding value: Regular readers know my oldest son, Ben, left Microsoft last year to do his own software startup with his longtime best friend. One of the things that they needed, after deciding on a name, business format, etc. was a logo. Both are good artists, but did they do it themselves? No, they wanted lots of ideas. So they parceled the work out to DesignOutpost, one of a number of sites on the web where you can contact graphic designers and collaborate with them on the art you need. Ben got dozens of designs, commented on them, and then the designers came back with changes. Only the "winner" gets paid, but there were no lack of participants in the work. All the conversations are open for everyone to see, all very fast, and resulted in a great product. Think about this kind of collaborative work that the web enables. And, of course, check out DesignOutpost if you need some good graphic design done well, fast and cheap.
Open up to more minds, more ideas, and more collaboration. It's good for everyone.