The Wall Street Journal today articulated a no-doubt common sentiment about Wael Ghonim, the Google employee who has emerged as a hero of the popular rebellion in Egypt.

“I’m glad the guy doesn’t work for us.”

As the US government has struggled to find the right response to the uprising, global companies have, by and large, kept mum on both their political opinions, and their plans should the situation deteriorate. Google, though, has found itself in the headlines, due to its Web-savvy (naturally) marketing manager, who set up an online network “that served as a rallying point for activists long before crowds gathered in Tahrir Square”.

Google has expressed pride in its “passionate employees”, but has also explained that:
- Ghonim is on leave, and not acting as a representative of Google.
- He will be welcomed back when he’s ready to work again.

I have to think if this guy worked for a company called ACME Storm Windows we would not even know about it. Google is empirically cool, and the social media angle is an essential aspect of the story. Now that Mubarak has stepped down, and Ghonim may be pondering a future even more exciting than life at Google (were that even possible), I can’t help but wonder – where will the next revolution come from?

I’m sure many CEOs are wondering the same thing. Today’s global knowledge workers have incredibly powerful tools at their disposal, and the access to them twenty-four hours a day. Like Ghonim, they are putting these tools to work on a whole range of personal passions – from guitar solos to green coal. Companies reticent to find ways to encourage and harness this facility for their own end are not just missing an trick, they are opting out of the whole game.

The point is, this guy DOES work for you, or someone like him. They may not all help start political revolutions, but with some encouragement and focus, they could light fires of insight and innovation at your own company.

Julia Hood
Arthur W. Page Society