E L S U A ~ A KM Blog by Luis Suarez

From the blog

Ghost Writing – Good or Bad?

Helsinki in the WinterOnce again, I am on the road on to my next business trip, this time around with two distinctive parts; one of them to Helsinki, Finland, where I will be participating in a number of IBM sponsored events around the Social Enterprise, a really cool, inspiring and rather innovative initiative on “Redefining Work 925” and, believe it or not, LivingA World Without Email” (One of my favourite topics du jour, as you can imagine …) and the other one to Paris, France, where I will be participating, and moderating a couple of panels, at the always engaging, entertaining and rather thought-provoking Enterprise 2.0 Summit, which starts next week on February 7th, and that this year promises to be quite an amazing event! But more on that one later on …

Yet, once again, since connectivity while on the road has got a lot to be desired for, I have picked up the good habit of pruning my RSS feeds (Remember RSS?), spice them up a bit and enjoy offline reading while I’m disconnected. And while I am doing that up in the air, I bumped into this brilliantly provocative blog entry by Tim Elmore on “Confessions of a Ghost Writer … for Students“. Goodness! How low can we, human beings, get? Or, even worse, how can we still allow that to happen?

Indeed, in a rather sharp article Tim comes to question not just the ability of ghost writing for students per se, but the ethics, or, better said, the lack of ethics and morale, in doing so when students are employing those ghost writers to pass on their exams on subjects that may be of interest to them, or not. Showing, at best, how laziness, and perhaps that lack of morale or motivation combined altogether, can certainly damage the true spirit of hard labour (Even on the literal sense of the word!) in delivering something for which one would feel very proud of. At least.

The story of the ghost writer that Tim exemplifies in that article will surely give you chills going through your spine big time, as it highlights all of those traits that a bunch of us have been wanting to wipe out from the corporate world as well for a while now: hypocrisy, lack of ethics and morale, unwillingness to do meaningful work (that’s truly yours, not someone else’s), lack of responsibility and co-ownership, laziness, instant gratification for the sake of it, not the value you may be providing, etc. etc. You know the gist…

What’s really troubling though from the article itself is not what Tim portraits quite clearly of what’s happening out there right at this very minute with students and the work they produce (Or don’t produce, better said), but a rather poignant question that I thought I would include as well over here to see the whole context of where we may be heading:

What will our world look like if these students become our leaders?

Whoahh! Sorry, but before we try to venture an answer for that rather provocative question allow me to comment on it for a minute: No, we do NOT want to have those leaders governing in our world. Sorry, that may have worked in the recent past, but as we moved into a (business) world that’s more interconnected, networked, engaged, transparent, public, nimble, collaborative, trustworthy, engaged, committed, authentic, and whatever else you can think of, along those lines, that is, the last thing we need is to have a range of generations who become our leaders by doing something that doesn’t match, really, any of those traits: cheating (due to lack of ethics and morale).

Tim’s article clearly reminds me of a recent internal conversation I had with a bunch of fellow IBMers where we were discussing the concept of ghost writing on blog posts and social networking sites, specially, with senior leaders in mind, as a way to allow them to enter the world of Social slowly, but steadily, helping them adjust to new ways of interacting with the help of others, who may be a bit more versed. Well, now more than ever, and after reading Tim’s piece, I’m not convinced at all that ghost writing, even for executives!, is a good thing!

The Social Enterprise has always demanded authenticity, co-ownership, responsibility, trust, transparency, commitment, engagement, motivation, being the real you, your self, the don’t pretend to be who you are not, etc. etc. Around the world of blogging, I have always found it very difficult to try to justify ghost writing when authenticity and trust kick in, even for senior leaders and that article surely confirms that belief. If you can’t be you, please don’t get someone to be you. No matter how important you are, how busy you may well be, how much of a thought leader you are (and perceived by others), engaging in social networks requires your personal you to do it. Sorry, no ghost writing.

Yes, I can imagine such activity may have worked in the traditional world of communications and marketing, and, to a certain degree, I can agree with doing such activity when you need to deliver a certain corporate message, whatever that may well be, but when it’s just you (your thoughts, your beliefs, your ideas, etc.) what you are delivering we want to hear, read, learn from you, AND interact and engage with you!, no intermediaries, please. We had enough of those in the recent decades and I am starting to think we need to move on from that discourse. To the point where I am more and more convinced by the day that if you can’t engage with your real self in social networking sites, your blog and whatever other means of living social, I think it would be much preferred that you don’t engage at all. We want the authentic you, the trustworthy you; we want to have the certainty that we are talking with the real thing: your own person.

I guess you folks may be thinking that I am a purist and all, and perhaps I am (Don’t think I will have any issues with that notion in this context, to be honest), but read Tim’s article once again, move that context into the corporate world, and try to answer that question again: “What will our world look like if these students become our leaders?” … with that mentality, but, even worse, with that notion of ethics and morale about meaningful work, inspired by their so-called role models that have already starting shaping up that wrong set of core values. Not sure what you would think, but I feel we need to stop it. And very soon, before it is just too late!

How can we possibly justify ghost writing / engaging in social networks today when that lack of authenticity, trust, openness and transparency, amongst others, will clearly not just damage your reputation as a business (Remember businesses are made of people!), but also your engagement with your peers, subordinates, thought leaders, customers and business partners alike?

Is this the new workplace of the future, we have been envisioning over the course of the last few years, that we would want to inspire within our younger generations, as well as our more senior knowledge workers? I surely hope not! There is something very wrong about this out there, in my opinion, and the sooner we all put a stop to it, the better. So next time that you may be thinking about doing ghost writing, or ghost blogging, please do think about it, think of the repercussions, of the implications, of the consequences, of the potential damage you will be creating. And, above all, be transparent and open enough about it and let us know you will be still carrying on with it… so that we can move on in search for those other leaders who want to be their selves inspiring lots of trust, authenticity, transparency, openness, engagement and whatever else, because, somehow, I feel we would ALL be much, much, better off altogether!

Business. Made Social. Earn it!

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  1. I’ve had many a debate with PR types about this very topic, because practically no content produced in the name of a senior leader will have been written by them, whether that’s a blog or a newspaper column.

    My argument is that it’s wrong, that I’m reading because I want to hear their thoughts, not those of a PR professional.

    They would often then retort that the articles were their thoughts, but that AN Other had merely written them up for them. It’s an argument that still didn’t wash. Communication is important, so I’m sure these leaders know how to write well enough.

    For me, if they don’t have the time and inclination to do these things themselves, then they shouldn’t publish them in their own name. It’s a charade.

    Sadly I don’t think they were at all convinced. Naive and idealistic were some of the words pinged my way.

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