Don’t fence me in!

I went to a presentation to a small group of intermediaries given by a major life company last week. The presentation explored how we could adopt social media in our work to help jointly build our businesses and make it easier for our clients to deal with us.

The presentation was delivered with the help of Prezi, a development of Powerpoint that brings slides to life and is particularly effective as a way of embedding video and audio clips.

I followed up this week and asked if I could have the presentation to share with others. I had wanted to show it to my colleagues  as an example of how life companies were successfully embracing new technologies.

Here is the response

Thanks for your comments, for some reason, Linkedin/company are blocking my response so I have used your e-mail address to respond.

Unfortunately, I have just been advised that the presentation we gave at the summit has a large amount copy write protected content and as such we are unable to circulate it.

Apologies for this.

I’m sure the ironies aren’t escaping you! A major European life company unable to share its ideas in a meaningful way because of “copy-writed material” embedded in it. Who’s copyright? If it is the life company’s , having embarked on sharing with the group, why would they not want the material to be shared further. This is of course how social media works and why it has become the power it has,

If on the other hand, the material that the life company was sharing was the property of others, a different question arises. Where is the thought leadership within such an organisation that means that it must rely on external consultants and cannot speak for itself?

So weak is the corporate’s trust in the media it sought to promote to us that it appears the poor fellow was even blocked from interacting with me on LinkedIn! Perhaps , as his mail suggests, his company and linked in are colluding against him.

I doubt I am the only refugee from life company culture that would and could never go back to work in such an environment. I have made it clear to headhunters that any conversation is not worth having if it comes caveated with phrases such as “now I don’t want this to appear on twitter” or “don’t blog on this”. The basis of my loyalty for First Actuarial is the mutual trust between us that allows me to publish articles like this.

Of course there are things that could not or should not be shared. But the presumption in an open society is that if you have an idea that has commercial value which you want to preserve, you either keep it to yourself or you request a nondisclosure agreement or you politely ask anyone not prepared to respect Chatham House rules to leave the room.

“For the avoidance of doubt” – a phrase I love and loathe in equal measure – if you engage  with me in an open session and cannot share that information digitally, then I will get confused.

The trajectory of my engagement with this life company started by my being intrigued by new ideas on sharing, developed into a full on conversation which I hoped would lead to a better understanding of the life company and of the support they could deliver me and has fallen away into confusion that has actually set me back from where I started.

This is not unusual! The ideas of sharing which come with social media are controversial, companies need to be clear about their social media strategy and then apply it consistently. Any inconsistencies will be amplified, as they are in this case, to the embarrassment of all.

Which is not how it is meant to be!

This is only one of a number of examples I could share, I am sure that most readers of this have similar stories to tell. We are at the inception of a technological communications revolution and in fifty years times, our grandkids and great grandkids will look back at us as “early adopters”. As we struggle to find our feet, rules of engagement will evolve.

The rules that will govern our behaviour to each other , issues of intellectual property and matters of privacy have yet to harden into legislation. This fluidity is the attraction to many who are trekking out west in search of the freedoms they crave.

Tough as it may be for those who observe their progress from institutions such as this life company, these bushwhackers and goldpanners are no longer in their thrall.

Beyond us we have seen the outback and the grand sierras and we like what we see. We may get bitten by the odd snake and fall into the odd crevice, but we aren’t coming back. We are happy to send you invitations to join us but to live out here, you need to be prepared to share and not tell, learn and not preach and look at the wide skies not the dirty earth!



About henry tapper

Founder of the Pension PlayPen,, partner of Stella, father of Olly . I am the Pension Plowman
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