Today Rocky and I visited Yammer’s headquarters and had an interesting chat with founder/CEO David Sacks.
Don’t know what Yammer is? Two-and-a-half years ago they won Techcrunch 50 for its enterprise collaboration system (think Twitter for businesses). Now they are a lot more than that, and growing fast. Tons of big businesses like Chevron are using Yammer to help people work together.
That interview will be up soon, but during our chat I asked him when companies would be compensating people based on the value they are pouring in the system.
I got a very strange look.
A year ago I asked Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff the same question and got the same strange look.
Tells me I’m onto something.
Here’s what I am thinking of.
If someone adds a lot of value into a company’s internal system Yammer could keep track of that (thanks to engagement, etc) and when yearly bonuses get handed out management could just look to see who has put the most value into the system.
Fairly straightforward, but it’s interesting that both Sacks and Benioff don’t want to push this potential use of their systems. At least not in public.
Why would that be?
Well, they are both in adoption mode. They are still trying to convince people and companies to use these systems instead of more private email.
Remember back when I worked at NEC (a huge world-wide company?) When I left there all my email was private. I don’t have access to it anymore. Neither does the company.
But now Yammer and a host of other companies are trying to convince people to do their work “in the open.” In other words, instead of writing down some detail about a sales account in email, or in a contact manager only one person has access to, put that up on a news stream and into a contact manager everyone can see.
This freaks many employees out.
Why? Being open is antithetical to how they were trained. Many people think they are compensated by the value they hoarded.
Think about a lawyer. They went to school to gain exotic knowledge that they hoarded. People paid them for this hoarded knowledge.
Today? We’re asking people to blog, Tweet, put up YouTube videos, and to use Yammer and other systems like Salesforce.
That’s scary for a lot of people.
So, when I go and ask whether we should compensate people based on the information they SHARE with a company, that’s a topic these new CEOs aren’t quite willing to talk openly about.
Why? It freaks the information hoarders out and makes them less likely to change to information sharers. In such a world old systems like Microsoft Sharepoint stay relevant and new systems like Yammer don’t get adopted.
I’m quite convinced though that in the future at least some of big-company compensation will come from whether you have good knowledge sharing skills.
It’ll just take a couple of years to get there. In the meantime these new CEOs will remain a bit cagey about the potential for compensating people based on how good their Yammering is.
Oh, and now you also know why they are watching reputation systems like the ones that Quora just put in place.
Photo credit: David Sacks photo shot by Robert Scoble in Yammer’s San Francisco headquarters.
UPDATE: Brian Solis talk at lift, called “Digital Currencies” gives a further hint as to what this world might look like.