I was reading Brian Solis’ recent post yesterday – Social Business Takes a Human Touch, No Really – and commented on it. I thought I’d simply republish it as a post on my blog.
This post encapsulates many of the underlying themes that have emerged out of the current ‘socialization of business’. This socialization is taking place against a backdrop of the inevitable convergence of the ‘real’ and ‘virtual’ worlds. The disjointed and fragmented landscape that is emerging and evolving for now, will I am sure, in time give way to new ways of working, communicating and engaging with each other. The 95 theses contained within The Cluetrain Manifesto, written in 1999, seem so prophetic now.
Your post which avoids the usual misplaced rhetoric, vacuous soundbites and hackneyed management clichés is written with an eloquence of voice and elegance of structure that lends full weight behind the central message that you weave: we are in a time of change, and in times of change, leaders emerge.
However, there is a fundamental difference in how this change is unraveling. In the past, leaders controlled the channels of communication. We, the audience – the bystanders and participants, willingly, unwillingly, perhaps even unwittingly at times looked to these leaders, to these somewhat enigmatic, yet charismatic few who were blessed with a presence that captivated, commanded, and at times demanded our attention.
The difference now is that a channel of expression, what we loosely term social media, has been democratised. These social tools, blunt as they may be, together with the smartphone, gives to each one of us, not only the power of individual self expression – I can be heard, but more importantly, the notion that our collective voice can be united: we can be heard. We, now, each one of us, has the ability not only to listen, but to be heard and in so doing to ferment change. Each one of us can be a leader in our own way. It is not good enough to look elsewhere any more. That convenience has been taken away.
The conversations we have with each other not only inform the change, they represent the change that is taking place. Our paradigms, constructs and artifices are shifting. Our once hallowed and enshrined concepts of business are being questioned, cajoled, provoked and challenged in the belief that the possibility of something better lies just ahead. We are all being awakened from our comfortable slumber.
The conversations taking place stand for these new paradigms. The marketplace that The Cluetrain Manifesto talked about, or at the very least its foundation, in a sense, is finally being built. We are seeing the rise of people networks and the emergence of self-branded ecosystems where information is exchanged, knowledge shared and help provided. These networks and ecosystems built on trust.
Here, people are helping each other, and in so doing, redefining the notion of the company, how business is to be done, and even the language of business. From a social customer care perspective, for example, empathy is now part of the everyday lexicon, customer care is no longer simply a transactional and process-driven interaction. In many respects the experience has superceded the drive for a resolution within three minutes. If your washing machine breaks down, your first port of call is likely to be Google, not the manufacturer. Customer care is decentralizing in a sense. As Jeremiah Owyang wrote, companies are now having to ‘fish where the fish are’. A fundamental paradigm shift is taking place.
Companies can no longer pay lip service to their customers. Mission and vision statements, customer charters are no longer decorative wall hangings: companies now have to deliver on the promise of them as well.
Whilst I am not convinced that social is the answer, it is without doubt, along with the increasing ubiquity of the smartphone catalytic in influencing this change. Added to this, the current economic climate is forcing each one of us to reassess our status quo. I am a great believer that it requires a number of different factors to be present for change, behavioural change to take place. In my mind, these factors are coming together.
On the one hand, we are carrying the weight of our industrial past on our shoulders, whilst on the other, looking at the possibility that something like augmented reality might bring; two diametrically opposite worlds. Out of this tension between past and future, change is emerging and it is time for all of us to lead the way forwards now.