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Work in old organizations and socially-mediated organizations at the same time?

What does it feel like to learn social media on the double?

My computer knowledge is like that old fashioned holy cheese that you never see in the shops any more.  It joins from end-to-end, and thankfully, it rests on a solid foundation of computer science, but it has holes from years where I’ve either worked with someone who was very good with computers, and they did everything, or we had little to no IT at work, and we were back to taking our work home at night or working on the back of an envelope.

So holes, I have. I know what it feels like.  But I have surrounding ‘cheese’ to guide me and some sense of the basics.

I look at people who are hastily climbing on the social media band-wagon.  And I wonder what that feels like.

How quickly can someone learn to use social media?

  • How happy are they to use a computer, or do they inherently distrust the box?
  • Do they use Google and email?
  • Do they have the first idea what to do when “everything changes”? Do they even have somebody to call when their router mysteriously stops working?
  • Do they use YouTube or Flickr?
  • Do they have their own website?
  • Do they use Skype?
  • Do they know anyone on Facebook or Twitter?
  • Do they blog or know anyone who does?
  • Have they set up a web2.0 community?

And this is on the technical/use side.  What social skills do they have?

  • When was the last time they spoke to a stranger (about something meaningful or useful)?
  • When was the last time they were surprised by a stranger or formal acquaintance?
  • Do they relate as readily to a 15 year old as to a 45 year old as to a 75 year old?
  • Do they talk easily to people of all walks of life and cultures or do they get confused?
  • When was the last time they worked in a group when they were not “in charge” or “following orders”?
  • Can they make the distinction between ‘letting things unfold’ and ‘being lazy”?
  • Do they make the distinction between stiff “politeness” and warm “courtesy”

How quickly can someone take up social media?

My own best guess is that it would be a couple of years to learn social media from a good start.   For many people making a standing-start, it might take a decade because they need to learn a whole new set of social skills.

I don’t even think training courses are sufficient.  Training is for people who have the basic ‘education’ needed to turn general skills into specific, contextual skills.

We can train a geek to set up social media and we can train a community organizer to use social media.  For a deeper understanding, and wider reach to the larger community, we need systemic change.

We need a roll out which helps change the way we do business with each other and increases the use of technology on a day-to-day basis.

Which firms will win the social media race?

I know this is a big ask.  And that is why it is a revolution.

Firms which don’t go through a big re-think are likely to be overtaken by ‘new kids on the block’ who aren’t carrying the baggage of old ways.

Individuals should just get moving using social media at home for personal business and doing community work.  Then move to socially-mediated organizations as soon as they can.

Investors will be watching.  Many are disbelieving that life is changing.  Well, I have seen that before in other contexts.  They will lose their shirts.  Early adopters, though, will not necessarily make much money but they will make a lot of contacts.

Timing is of the essence.  But as we cannot switch without skills and experience, gaining both is key to our future prosperity.

For all of us, doing ‘two’ both at once is key – continuing to make  living from the old (which will get overtaken) while investing in the new.

While the big institutions don’t manage the change, we will have  to do it ourselves – work in old organizations and socially-mediated organizations at the same time.

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Published in SOCIAL MEDIA & IT

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