Over the past several years, some in the British media have suggested that I should have better things to do than spend my time on Facebook or other social networking or web services. I would certainly agree with them if this amounted to more than an hour or two a week, or occurred mostly during "work" hours. However, I believe it is a very worthy investment of my "free" time to explore the latest interactions of media and technology, or indeed to write this blog when I feel I have something worthwhile to say.
It is undoubtedly the same pundits who think nothing of criticizing the music industry for having been too stupid to see the threats and opportunities presented by digital downloading, who themselves have an outdated view of what work consists of for the senior executives of an information or technology company. Reading one of their articles or even a more worthy Mckinsey report would certainly pass muster, but actual first hand experimentation is seen as a waste of time.
I strongly disagree. Growth requires innovation, and, unfortunately, innovation is not a linear process. When Columbus "discovered" the New World, he had actually set out to find a new route to India. The much admired Google similarly did not set out to invent the dominant ad monetization engine. Too much idle experimentation in the executive suite leads to a failure to execute on any plan; however, the total absence of imagination leads to plans that lead nowhere.
Now it could be argued, I suppose, that imagination and experimentation should be left to more junior or younger staff, and the chief executive should only perform "serious" duties like strategy formulation and ordering people around. I think this is a lousy and disconnected way to lead. I believe that unless one interacts with and plays with the leading technology of the age, it is impossible to dream the big dreams, and difficult to create an environment in which creative individuals will feel at home. This does not mean that the ceo needs to program a third-party app on Facebook, but I believe it is ultimately more useful in understanding business concepts like viral marketing, crowd-sourcing or federated development to use a live example rather than wait for the Harvard Business Review article to appear in three years time.
We should all feel comfortable to follow our own paths. What counts is the results, not living-up to some outdated view of what "work" looks like in the 21st century.