Jon Iwata on IBM's Policy of Social Media Freedom
Jon Iwata, IBM's senior vice president of Marketing & Communications, explains why freedom is the best social media policy for employees.
"I think corporations are, by and large, over the delusion that they can permit or disallow their employees from using so-called social media. But we had the debate, you know, we had the debate back when blogging burst on the scene about whether or not we should allow this."
Those are the words of Jon Iwata, IBM's senior vice president of Marketing & Communications, as well as friend to everyone's favorite game show-winning supercomputer, Watson. As the man responsible for framing the "voice" of the IBM brand, Iwata has made his fair share of discoveries with regard to what works and what doesn't in the many realms of communications. He offers his unique perspective on company-wide social media policies in an exclusive lesson available only on Big Think Edge titled "Don't Worry, Be Social: Why Freedom is the Best Social Media Policy for Employees." You can check out the preview clip below.
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Iwata makes the astute observation that we're past the Wild West stage of social media. Companies have surveyed the terrain, deemed it fit for use, and incorporated it as a vital communications tool. And while there are occasional hiccups in which branded Twitter accounts insert foot into mouth, companies are getting better and better at making sure everyone stays on message.
But Iwata isn't just talking about branded social media accounts; he's talking about employees. In today's never-unplugged world, you're never not a spokesperson for your company. Everything you say on social media is intrinsically linked to your employer's brand. Remember when Aflac gave Gilbert Gottfried the axe a few years ago when he cracked some tasteless jokes on Twitter in the aftermath of the Japanese tsunami? There are plenty of other examples across the web of people losing their jobs for inflammatory or uncouth tweets.
One might view this evidence and suppose that employees on social media are an unnecessary headache for most companies. Iwata sees things differently. To him, social media isn't any more a risk than all the other forms of potentially hazardous communication. The reasons corporate leaders sometimes fear social media aren't reasons exclusive to the medium:
"The lawyer worries about disclosure. The head of HR worries about, you know, people being recruited away. We worry about confidential information and so forth. And everybody worries about criticism of management."
These all fall under the banner of company communications, not just Twitter or Facebook. Social media is just another category through which triumphs and errors can occur. Therefore, the solution is not to ban social media or restrict your employees' online activities. The solution is to institute thoughtful communications policies as the foundation of your business practices. Each and every employee should be trained to represent the company well in any setting: live, online, in text, etc. An employee saying something dumb on social media isn't a social media problem; it's a communications problem.
"If you’re not going to give away secrets in a parking garage at midnight, we’re going to trust you that you’re not going to do it on the internet, for goodness sakes, where everybody can see what you’re doing. So we trust you. Just use good judgment."
Trust and good judgment are the bases of IBM's employee social media policy. Employees enjoy their freedom to communicate and take notice of the trust instilled in them. Leadership oversees a happy workforce that may very well surprise them with intuitive utilization of smart social media.
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Here's the first evidence to challenge the "fastest sperm" narrative.
Experts argue the jaws of an ancient European ape reveal a key human ancestor.
- The jaw bones of an 8-million-year-old ape were discovered at Nikiti, Greece, in the '90s.
- Researchers speculate it could be a previously unknown species and one of humanity's earliest evolutionary ancestors.
- These fossils may change how we view the evolution of our species.
Homo sapiens have been on earth for 200,000 years — give or take a few ten-thousand-year stretches. Much of that time is shrouded in the fog of prehistory. What we do know has been pieced together by deciphering the fossil record through the principles of evolutionary theory. Yet new discoveries contain the potential to refashion that knowledge and lead scientists to new, previously unconsidered conclusions.
A set of 8-million-year-old teeth may have done just that. Researchers recently inspected the upper and lower jaw of an ancient European ape. Their conclusions suggest that humanity's forebearers may have arisen in Europe before migrating to Africa, potentially upending a scientific consensus that has stood since Darwin's day.
Rethinking humanity's origin story
The frontispiece of Thomas Huxley's Evidence as to Man's Place in Nature (1863) sketched by natural history artist Benjamin Waterhouse Hawkins. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)
As reported in New Scientist, the 8- to 9-million-year-old hominin jaw bones were found at Nikiti, northern Greece, in the '90s. Scientists originally pegged the chompers as belonging to a member of Ouranopithecus, an genus of extinct Eurasian ape.
David Begun, an anthropologist at the University of Toronto, and his team recently reexamined the jaw bones. They argue that the original identification was incorrect. Based on the fossil's hominin-like canines and premolar roots, they identify that the ape belongs to a previously unknown proto-hominin.
The researchers hypothesize that these proto-hominins were the evolutionary ancestors of another European great ape Graecopithecus, which the same team tentatively identified as an early hominin in 2017. Graecopithecus lived in south-east Europe 7.2 million years ago. If the premise is correct, these hominins would have migrated to Africa 7 million years ago, after undergoing much of their evolutionary development in Europe.
Begun points out that south-east Europe was once occupied by the ancestors of animals like the giraffe and rhino, too. "It's widely agreed that this was the found fauna of most of what we see in Africa today," he told New Scientists. "If the antelopes and giraffes could get into Africa 7 million years ago, why not the apes?"
He recently outlined this idea at a conference of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists.
It's worth noting that Begun has made similar hypotheses before. Writing for the Journal of Human Evolution in 2002, Begun and Elmar Heizmann of the Natural history Museum of Stuttgart discussed a great ape fossil found in Germany that they argued could be the ancestor (broadly speaking) of all living great apes and humans.
"Found in Germany 20 years ago, this specimen is about 16.5 million years old, some 1.5 million years older than similar species from East Africa," Begun said in a statement then. "It suggests that the great ape and human lineage first appeared in Eurasia and not Africa."
Migrating out of Africa
In the Descent of Man, Charles Darwin proposed that hominins descended out of Africa. Considering the relatively few fossils available at the time, it is a testament to Darwin's astuteness that his hypothesis remains the leading theory.
Since Darwin's time, we have unearthed many more fossils and discovered new evidence in genetics. As such, our African-origin story has undergone many updates and revisions since 1871. Today, it has splintered into two theories: the "out of Africa" theory and the "multi-regional" theory.
The out of Africa theory suggests that the cradle of all humanity was Africa. Homo sapiens evolved exclusively and recently on that continent. At some point in prehistory, our ancestors migrated from Africa to Eurasia and replaced other subspecies of the genus Homo, such as Neanderthals. This is the dominant theory among scientists, and current evidence seems to support it best — though, say that in some circles and be prepared for a late-night debate that goes well past last call.
The multi-regional theory suggests that humans evolved in parallel across various regions. According to this model, the hominins Homo erectus left Africa to settle across Eurasia and (maybe) Australia. These disparate populations eventually evolved into modern humans thanks to a helping dollop of gene flow.
Of course, there are the broad strokes of very nuanced models, and we're leaving a lot of discussion out. There is, for example, a debate as to whether African Homo erectus fossils should be considered alongside Asian ones or should be labeled as a different subspecies, Homo ergaster.
Proponents of the out-of-Africa model aren't sure whether non-African humans descended from a single migration out of Africa or at least two major waves of migration followed by a lot of interbreeding.
Did we head east or south of Eden?
Not all anthropologists agree with Begun and his team's conclusions. As noted by New Scientist, it is possible that the Nikiti ape is not related to hominins at all. It may have evolved similar features independently, developing teeth to eat similar foods or chew in a similar manner as early hominins.
Ultimately, Nikiti ape alone doesn't offer enough evidence to upend the out of Africa model, which is supported by a more robust fossil record and DNA evidence. But additional evidence may be uncovered to lend further credence to Begun's hypothesis or lead us to yet unconsidered ideas about humanity's evolution.
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