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Are You a Bad Business? Meet WikiWorker!

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Was your business built on core values of honesty and trust? Have those values devolved to create a sinister culture that honors only the buck? Be honest now, have you become a bad business? If yes, then meet WikiWorker.

Greg Smith going turncoat on employer Goldman Sachs in the New York Times Op-Ed pages, and ad man Jerry Comyn recently pitching his high profile resignation are just two individuals in what is becoming a powerful avalanche toward organizational change. I call this movement the rise of the WikiWorker.

Who is the WikiWorker? He or she is a frontline employee who just can't take it anymore. In kamikaze fashion, he falls on his sword, revealing his employer's secrets on the Internet and leading the charge toward changing the culture and the operations of his industry.

The top guns at old fashioned hierarchies have good reason to fear WikiWorkers. But if they could turn the energy of that fear into hope, they might find in the social web new tools that could forge a way forward into happier workplaces, greater transparency and better profits.

That's because often embedded in the griping and grimacing of these WikiWorkers are truths about what needs to be fixed within organization and without. The smart management idea would be to empower the WikiWorker -- before he goes public -- to be a change agent in the workplace so he can co-create with the public a better product or service. This can be achieved using powerful tools of the social web.

The new structure for organizational change that is emerging is a kind of Wikileaks meets Facebook-meets-reality-TV-show Undercover Boss. And what a masterful stroke it would be to bring all three together under the vetting, social journalism and watchful eye of what I call The Accountability Newsroom.

I believe TAN would be a masterful tool for improving government.

The Accountability Newsroom would be the anonymous landing pad for public workers who want to improve government. Affiliated with an established newsroom, TAN's reporters, curators and community builders would encourage, support, listen to and protect insiders while collecting info to change the culture and processes of government.

Here in Chicago, the Open Government movement is in full flower. Alex Howard describes the quiet revolution well in this O'Reilly Radar post. As part of a big plan, data is being liberated and now technologists and sociologists are looking at creating context around the data, because without context the data is simply mind-numbing fog. Teams are beginning their contextual experiments at City Hall, at Cook County and at the Chicago Public Schools and elsewhere. I wish them every success.

It's an enormous start but it's not enough, because one could argue that the most important work -- the human work -- is not getting done. Work must also begin internally to set straight the snarled processes that have been created by years and years of patchwork "solutions" often fashioned by politicians in response to journalist's investigations.

Without an effective tool for organizational change, politicians' and investigative journalists' claims to cut "waste and red tape" of government are empty and harmful rhetoric. That's because government "waste" is commonly thought of as the line items in a budget. These lines reflect salaries and benefits to workers -- some good, some bad, some necessary, some unnecessary. But in reality, although waste might reside in line items, more often waste resides between the lines, in the processes.

These wasteful processes are often fallout from the usual investigative journalism model, where corrupt politicians are exposed but corrupted systems remain. The corrupt politician points a finger, the fall guy is whisked away, and a patchwork fix is planted over the damaged system simulating repair to the public eye. In reality, these patchworks often add only paper work, bureaucracy and cost. And they make working in City Hall unpleasant.

The Accountability Newsroom would manage an external and internal social media interface that curates, culls and vets information, reporting on successes and shining lights on dark corners, all in the name of delivering better public services and creating a government more responsive to the needs of the people.

For those who shriek at the questionable ethics introduced by the word Wikileaks as well as at the tawdry public relations puffery that is Undercover Boss, please understand I am using these words to make a commonly understood -- not literal -- comparison. Give employees a real voice for change and they won't need to grouse so loudly. Give bosses the view from the front line and -- one would hope -- they might change what really matters instead of what seems politically expedient.

Just think what the world would be like if newsrooms everywhere could responsibly use social journalism tools to help leaders, and more important, front line workers trapped in dead organizations to co-create honest organizational cultures that are more responsive to the public, more invigorating for employees, and more informative to executives seeking to better manage their businesses and agencies.

Organizations and businesses committed to quality principles are moving toward this dashboard of organizational change. I saw potent pieces demonstrated recently at a gathering of executives exploring the social management tools of Salesforce.com, including Rypple and Chatter, which happily threaten to reinvent the HR function and flatten old hierarchies into smart new structures.

As I wrote about in my interview with Brian Solis, the social web is a monumental opportunity for change. The internal culture -- the front lines of an organization -- can lead the way and make visible to the leadership at the top of the hierarchy how things go wrong in the process of delivery. The front line can also show what needs to change internally to make what is delivered right, appropriate, needed and desired. Helping the front line manifest that vision is the public, which can work hand in glove through the social web to let their vision be known.

The idea of The Accountability Newsroom crafted and responsibly taken to a logical next step could be an opportunity to change the world and roll the stone of social change that much further up the hill.

Thank you to the Poynter Institute for supporting my blue sky development of this idea through its entrepreneurship program.