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Don’t confuse social media for organizing with social media for marketing

Pop appearing from nowhere ny thievingjoker via FlickrPut aside the “one size fits all” view of social media.

I have a proposition –

Social media for marketing is not the same as social media for organizing.

The social media we use in marketing is simply not the same as the social media that we use for organizing a commercial enterprise or, for that matter, a political movement.  It’s time for us to put aside the “one size fits all” view of social media.

First beginnings in social media

As people encounter social media, obviously, they begin at the beginning and they ask:

  • What is social media?
  • How do I get started?

As they progress, they discover Analytics and ask more sophisticated questions.

  • How do I monitor my traffic?
  • How can I gauge my relationship with my customers (or my audience)?

And then, some, but still only some, discover split testing and they ask:

  • How many ways could we lay out this page and which do our customers prefer?

We’d be very pleased if all our projects were running A/B or split tests and if we made our content decisions on the basis of data.

Tailor  social media for business

But, social media does not end with split-testing.  There is another peak and I think it is time social media commentators got together to draw a better map of our terrain.

What assumptions did we make when we asked our questions about social media?

We have more questions to ask.

  • What did we assume when we asked, “How effective are we?”
  • Did we assume, without saying so explicitly, that we want to use social media to sway people to our point-of-view?
  • Did we assume, without saying so explicitly, that we wanted to get as many people as possible to pursue the same call-to-action?

The thinking behind social media and marketing

I’ll put it to you that marketers tend to a view of engaging minimally with people.

Customers, by definition, are “out there” and their main role in our lives is to exchange their money for our goods and services.

Most of the time, though not all of the time, marketers set up quite simple transactions.  Two for a pound, etc.

The thinking behind social media and organizing

Inside the organization, our assumptions are a little different.

In organizations, we come together for a purpose and we create structures that are similar to a computer game.  Newbies are free to join in and level their way up through progressively harder quests.

In commerce, the levels are supposed to be fun and engaging.  But, levels aren’t put there for our amusement.  We have levels to allow people of varying competences to contribute.  We have levels to allow us to recruit and organize a wide variety of skills and experience so that able to achieve a common goal together.

I am not talking about simple gamification here.  A simple game is bingo – exciting to some but an essentially simply structure that has as its role light entertainment.  Marketers can use simple games very well.

Numbers make sense in marketing; they destroy value in organizing

But, when we want to go to the moon, or even sell lollipops, we need a little more.  We don’t need everyone to respond to one call-to-action.  Indeed, when more people than we need respond to a call-to-action, we waste resources.

To give you an example, it is stupid to have a call-to-action that results in 70 people responding to one job advertisement.  Ten will do.  Five qualified responses would be fine.

To give you another example, when I have a problem with coding, I don’t want to read through 50 answers.  I want to go to one place and find the answer within a few searches at the most.

To give you yet another example, when I am working in my office, I don’t want every noobe asking me basic questions.

We need levels.  We need order.  And, we need ways to organize our communications so that people can join in and find their way without a lot of support.

Our task is different from marketing.  They want volume.  It is their job to go outside the organization and extract money from people. It makes sense to do the same simple transaction over and over again. Indeed this is the very essence of commodified businesses.

At best, we are like the high end of marketing where there are customized sales and wide margins. But we are not even that because our output is common purpose.  The efforts of all our participants have to mesh.  They may not understand the whole picture but they won’t stay if the whole picture is not health because we won’t have the resources to keep them leveling up and taking out of the system what they want.

We are not marketers.  We are organizers.

If our social structures are different, it follows our social media will be different.  I think it is time for us to know the difference and to explain the difference to our clients.

We are not marketers.  We are organizers.  And our social media is different.  Marketers need volume.  Organizers need small numbers of people to do different things at the right time in the right order to achieve a common goal.

I think it is time for us to know the difference and to explain the difference to our clients.


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The social media expert list wanted by business

The Conversation by Danielle Scott via FlickrClay Shirky talks about politics – what about social media and business?

I was stunned when I listened to Clay Shirky on the Middle East uprising.  Not stunned by what Clay Shirky said –  I’ve always believed that social media will rock the political world.  I was stunned because when I stopped to go behind Clay Shirky’s words, and more importantly, relate them to business, I arrived at a view about social media pundits might consider heresy.

Social media may be bad for dictators.   But, social media is not always good for business.  Not, because we are dictators.  We can’t be dictators in business.  But, because consumers have constant choice.

Consumers can love us, or leave us, with a lot less effort than they can love and leave their governments.  And frankly, your service or mine is a lot less important to them than the way they are treated by an all-powerful government.

In short, good people, social media is not always good for business because what we offer and sell is not always that important to our customers.  I am not being rude.  I am making an important point.

We have to listen to people because we our role in their lives is so small

Our consumers have lives, and their lives are much bigger than our businesses

Dictators need to listen to their people because they take over a person’s whole life.  We have to listen to people because we our role in their lives is so small.

Where dictators swamp every detail of a person’s life; the details of a person’s life swamp the use of our product.

What do we want to know before we know whether social media is good for business?

We want to know how the details of their lives swamp us.  Phrased positively, we want to know how we fit in to the bigger picture of their lives.

Social media has made niche conversational analysis important

Lifestyle analysis  is not new in marketing   Coca-Cola has people going around watching where they can put a cold box full of Coke to create a new channel and they find surprising places like commuter Kombis in Johannesburg.

What is new, A.SM. – after social media, is that social media has put the spotlight on lifestyle analysis and conversational analysis, in particular.

But not every conversation that is possible will happen.  Nor is every conversation important.  Our conversations may be ridiculously important to dictators, who are easily destabilized by the sudden connectedness of their people.

Business simply doesn’t need to worry in the same way as unpopular governments.  People in Inverness don’t necessarily want to suddenly start chatting about baked beans to someone in Brighton.  Nor are people in Invercargill going to start talking about baked beans with each other just because they can.  Nor will students in Brighton make baked beans the subject of Facebook. There has to be a reason why they might want to.

I got to spell this out.  With dictators, the reason was already there.  Waiting.  Simmering.  With business, because consumers have choice and are already doing what they want to do, changes are going to be a lot more subtle.  And probably a lot more unexpected, and a lot more counter-intuitive.

Easy solutions are not readily found.  Someone trying to take advantage of your market share online has to work just as hard as they do offline.  Perhaps harder.  Online audiences aren’t captive.  They click away fast.  When we are capturing attention online, we can think of 0.5% as baseline, 2% as good and 10% as marvelous.

The outfit that captures your market through social media – the outfit that beats you to your own market has, by chance, or keen acumen, understood that there is something about your baked beans that consumers want to talk about.  And, they provided your consumers with the social media facilities to talk about something they want to talk about.

This feels hard.  So it should.  Most Marketing students skip the lecture on analysis.  So let me give you examples.

Example 1: Baked beans may be the advance party

When consumers buy baked beans – what problem are they solving?  Are they students trying to fill up on a tight budget?  Do they have kids who are picky eaters?  Are they going camping and need something edible ready in 5 minutes on an open fire?

A challenger to our business might reconstruct the market around a more viable segment: student meals, mums with troublesome kids, dads organizing active holidays.

Example 2: Frugality with style

In the great recession of the 21st century, we are eating out less.  Have you noticed that we talk about eating out a lot less than we used to on Twitter?  When did you last see someone bragging about buying takeaways in London?  When did you last see ‘nom nom’?

We are eating at home more, but really, when we are planning a private party, why would we broadcast it?  Wouldn’t that be rude?

Conversations change in purpose

Our conversations have a purpose – a social purpose.  Who are we talking to?  Why? And what do we hope to achieve?

In politics, the conversation is obvious.  In business, we have to get thinking.  Consumers are as inventive as they are choosy.

How to use social media in business

Social media offers the possibility of completely new conversations with a completely new purpose.  That’s the danger (and excitement) of social media.

  1. Tracking mentions and sentiments is good.  It gets us started.  And most of us still have heaps to learn.
  2. Tracking how the conversation is morphing and understanding what the consumer is doing socially when they Tweet, Facebook and blog – thats where the opportunity lies.

That’s where challengers with a keen eye for social science are going to seize the opportunity with two hands and make inroads into our markets!

Social Scientists and Social Media in UK

This is what has changed.

  • Social media specialists who can track activity and sentiment
  • Social scientists who analyze the conversation and tell us what punters are trying to achieve socially when they talk online.  That is where the opportunities lie.

So who are the expert social scientists in UK?

So who are the expert social scientists in UK who can track morphing conversations? That’s the list we need to compile for business customers.

Would you drop a comment saying who you think are the most expert social scientists studying new conversations emerging out of social media?

That’s the list that businesses would like to have.

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What a social scientiest learns about your business from social media

Listen, I'm just a farmer from Iowa - I don't want your discount ticket to see "Mama Mia!" on Broadway..This week, Clay Shirky went over the precepts and misunderstandings about social media and was suly covered by The Economist.  The principles of social media are now so well known that they will probably be a mandatory undergraduate essay soon!

I started to summarize what The Economist said Clay Shirky said (!) and found myself mashing and extending.  Very quickly, I’d move to what sophisticated social media users are doing and what social media coaches do to help people use social media better.

Following below are

  • The three misunderstandings of social media listed by The Economist, mashed up, followed by three questions we like to ask

Then I’ve rewritten the ideas as

  • Three questions I would ask you if I were helping you with your social media.

This is a first draft.  If you have any comments, I would like to hear them.

Point 1: Social media is not part of the information age!

As poet David Whyte says, “This is not the age of information . .  . this is the time of loaves and fishes. People are hungry, and one good word is bread for a thousand.”

Social media is not a call center where we ‘push’ a script, or, try to ‘steal’ information from unwitting customers.

Social media is a conversation.  We join in, in the way of all conversations, adding, extending, asking questions, never knowing where our exchange is going and preferring – all the while – not to know because surprise is delight, and delight brings us all back again!

We might eavesdrop, of course.  We can also try to dominate the conversation.  But we also have the opportunity to join the conversation, wherever it is and wherever it takes us!

  • Where is the conversation?
  • Who is coming and who is going?
  • What are they talking about and how does the conversation change as people come and go?

Point 2: Social media is not technology!

The road, the telegraph, the penny post, the telephone, the radio, the television – communication became safe, fast, cheap, shared, visual.  The intrepid, the adventurous, the business-like, the sociable, the opinionated, the entertaining– one by one, we all benefited.

The internet is one more step along this road of inclusion.  But it is different from earlier technologies in one important respect.  It self-heals. Take any one of us away, and the conversation closes over as if we were never there in the first place  The internet searches, and continues searching, until it finds the conversation it needs.

We often treat the conversations as static and fixed.  This is misdirected because it is the morph that is really interesting. What is the conversation now?  What is the conversation in a few moments?  What will the conversation be in a few moments?

Which morphs are interesting?   And what causes them?

  • How are people connected to each other?
  • What are the unspoken rules of their interaction?
  • Which external cues influence their conversation?

Point 3: Social media is not research!

Social media is, well, social, and sociable.  We are part of the conversation, and while we are in the midst of one conversation, we are taking part in others too.  We are talk to a lot of people at the same time.  We have multiple identities and many goals, all of which are important to us.

To the left, to the right, above and below, there are other conversations.  We can look only at one conversation at a time, but the edges ring the changes.

  • What other conversations are happening around our people?
  • When do these conversations command attention?
  • What morphing takes place as the edge becomes more interesting?

Social media and you

If we were working together, this is what I would want to know and the questions I would be asking

I want to know which conversations interest you

You might already be very clear about the conversations that matter to you.  And you might be central to the conversations that matter.

Social media boosts our sociology and anthropology.   Computers mean data.  Data means analysis.  Analysis means insight.

I would ask: Do our social media numbers tell us anything more about the conversation; who is part of it: and how participants come and go?

  • What do we already know and who is the curator of our knowledge?
  • What social media numbers are easily available?
  • What do our social media numbers tell us, over and above, what we knew already?

I want to know who influences the players in your industry

Who studies the players in your industry?  Do w know?  Have their been any studies on your social networks?  Or, any wider anthropological or sociological studies about who are the players and how they act together?  Do we understand how players relate to each other (or not)?  Do  we understand the external cues and events that attract their attention?  Do we have any hunches or naive theories?

  • What morphs have caught our eye and ask for explanation?
  • What information do we have about the player and what can we find easily?
  • What insights can we generate with quick and simple studies?

I want to know who influences players in your industry

It’s very likely that you already know who influences the people you work with.  They are also very sensitive whom you talk to when you are not with them.

  • What other conversations are the players having?
  • What do we know about those conversations?
  • How do changes in those conversations ripple through ours?

These are the questions I would ask you when we sit down to talk about you and your social media.

  • What conversations are happening?
  • How to the conversations change and why?
  • How are the conversations affected by other conversations?

Seemingly esoteric, I know, but these three core issues are not new.  Social media just makes it possible, practical and urgent to track them and position your business accordingly!

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What is the job of management scholars and consultants in the participation economy ushered in by social media?

Alaska 2010 by keithusc via FlickrBen Cameron said at TED:

“everyone . .  . resonates to the words of  Adrienne Rich in Dream of  A Common Language wrote: We are out in a country that has no language, no laws.  Whatever we do together is pure intervention.  The maps they gave us is out of date by years.

Ben Cameron is a Canadian Arts Administrator.   At TED, he described the market for the arts in clear concrete detail.  Old markets are in ‘trouble’, or not, depending on how much you welcome the replacement of the  consumption model of business with the participative model ushered in by social media.

The  collaborative economy has arrived

I subscribe to Ben Cameron’s view.  We are long past the point that old models can be made to work in the old order.

Management scholars and practitioners in the participation economy

I am not in the Arts. I am just a management consultant and scholar.  My role on this earth is simply to describe how we organize ourselves in collective ventures and to provide advice.

That means it is my job to tell you that old methods of selection and training, employee contracts and management styles, salaries and promotions can not work, do not work.

The time has come to create new ways to bring people together, meld working teams  and keep ourselves fresh and relevant.

The vision of the participation economy

I endorse Ben Cameron’s view  that our common aim is to develop a “healthy vibrant society, to ameliorate suffering, to promote a more thoughtful substantive empathic society”.

The challenge for work and organizational psychologists in 2010 is to start writing down and sharing

  1. How people come together to discuss business and how their discussions lead to better ideas of what we can and will do together
  2. How our relationships change from wish to intent to habit and how we can promote relationships that promote the success of the enterprises we envisioned when we set off together
  3. How we remain fresh, thinking up news ways to meet challenges and if necessary disbanding to go onto  new ventures, all the better for having worked together.

That is our mission of management scholars and consultants in a

a country that has no language, no laws.  Whatever we do together is pure intervention.  The maps they gave us is out of date by years.

It is time to get started writing down who knows what and making it available for everyone who want to know.

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Coelho’s true path to wisdom

PauloCoelhoThe Pilgrimage

Finding Paulo Coelho’s The Pilgrimage, in the local Oxfam shop, I bought it thinking I had already read it. I hadn’t. It’s marvelous; and packed full of wisdom that makes this a reference book to keep on your shelf.

True path to wisdom

One of the nuggets I thought would come up again is the advice Coelho is given by his guide who was called Petrus in the book.

“The true path to wisdom can be identified by three things,” said Petrus. “First, it must involve agape, and I’ll tell you more about this later; second, it has to have practical application in your life.  Otherwise, wisdom becomes a useless thing and deteriorates like a sword that is never used. “

“And finally, it has to be a path that can be followed by anyone.  Like the road you are walking now, the Road to Santiago.”

Writing to remember

I don’t have a good verbal memory so I like to write about things and link them to similar ideas.  That way, I’ll be able to recall the idea whenever I want to.  My method satisfies step 2, I suppose!  Blogging is practical.

Blogging also helps with step 3.  Anyone with a computer and internet connection and some literacy or a camera can blog.  About half the world, I suppose.  It’s not a protected activity, anyway.

But agape?  I write for a better understanding.  Yes, that is agape.  And I write to share. Not always well, but I try to be intelligible.

I worry though that I will reduce the ideas of Paolo Coelho to something prosaic and unworthy.  For what it is worth, these are two ideas from other domains that I immediately wanted to compare with Paolo Coelho’s ideas about the path to wisdom.

Happiness and chaos/complexity theory

Losada modeled happiness in a butterfly shaped space.   Contrary to views presented in the popular press, happiness isn’t  a consistently cheery mood.  It is appropriate reaction to events. We feel sad at sad times and happy at happy times but get stuck nowhere.

Ratio of positive to negative events

Losada uses three variables to model the space.  The ratio of positive to negative in our environment must range from 3:1 to 11:1.  3:1 is a lot.  For every jarring event, we need three good ones to recover.  5:1 is optimal.  Sometimes we struggle to maintain that ratio and the struggle captures our focus.  In these distressing times, we tend to exaggerate the bad by excluding what is good.  The good gets buried and we are in danger of slipping so far down the ratio we might never recover our composure.  Simply, we have to make a special effort to celebrate what is good in the situation to compensate our tendency to repeat the bad over and over again like a broken gramophone, presumably in the fear that if we don’t, it will bite us.  I take that to be agape.  The search for the good.

Other vs self

The second variable that Losada used was discussion of the outside world.  When we balance discussion of the world outside our immediate circle and the needs of our circle almost our mood swings throughout the spectrum.  We are less likely to see everything as all good or all bad.

To give you an example, I sometimes cheer myself up with an elaborate day dream of what I am going to do.  When I go out into the world, I am living my dream.  But people around me don’t see me that way.  It’s like meeting a bucket of cold water!  My immediate reaction is to feel small.  A better reaction is to build up the dream to include them too.  When my dream is not situated in the harsh realities of the world, other people will stop me, and more importantly my own sense of shock will stop myself.  And then I am unhappy because nothing works!!

Inquiry vs Advocacy

The third variable that Losada used is a balance of inquiry and advocacy.  At first sight, this is not the same as the criteria of universality, inclusion and humility that Coelho espouses, but when I put it like that, you possibly see the similarity.

Any way, I was struck by the similarity of ideas coming from different traditions and had to stop to test how far the ideas ran in parallel.

Social media

The second notion that struck me is that social media is successful because it also follows these principles.

Social media is a courteous world.   Sure it has its spammers and robots and flamers but the general ethos is to be helpful.    We simply get more done by celebrating what we can do together.

Social media is a practical world.  I watch my rankings not out of vanity, though of course there is an element of vanity too.  I watch my ranking and Google Analytics to help me find people who share my interests.   “5 best way” articles are very popular and that is partly a search for practicality ~ but they belong in the point below.  I write on blogs because they keep me grounded in reality (or at least more so than if I didn’t).

Social media is an inclusive world.  Through teaching, I know that a major difference between Gen Y and earlier generations is that digital natives test information in their own lives and absorb it or not when they find it useful.  When we can communicate useful  (not popular)  information, we see the response.  Of course, popular also wins.   Of course, tawdry also wins.  Not everything useful is deep or good.

I know we can take the analogy too far and the poetic description is far better than the stilted prose of a former academic.  I just wanted to test whether the three criteria ~ agape, practicality and openness ~ worked in other areas of my life.

Do they work for you?


Step 4: Consolidating my online strategy – prepping my WordPress shell to import my blog content

Migrating from to self-hosted

My overall goal here is to organize my online assets and my specific goal right now is to move my 2 year old blog from to a self-hosted WordPress blog on Dreamhost.  Though self-hosting costs a monthly fee and takes more maintenance, self-hosting allows me to control the theme, get Google Analytics and use advertisements.

So far, I have completed these steps

  • I bought a domain name,
  • I made a neat frontend for my domain using Posterous and connected it to the domain name that is housed at Dreamhost
  • I set up a sub-domain on Dreamhost
  • I used Dreamhost’s one One Click install to set up WordPress including an admin account
  • I zipped a theme that I had edited on my local host version of WordPress and tested it on a dummy account

Uploading a theme

Now I am ready to import my own theme to my self-hosted version of WordPress.

I don’t need to login into Dreamhost.  I simply go to my browser and type in the address of my blog: and login in as admin (not me).

Now I can go to Appearance in left side bar and Add Theme.  I use Upload and Browse to upload the them from my hard drive.  Activate. Check. Done!

Setting up permalinks

Now the last task before I come to get the content here is to match the permalink style on my self-hosted blog to the style here.  If I don’t do that, then the post titles are going to get scribbled and people won’t be able to follow old links and bookmarks to find the posts.  I may as well leave them behind, in other words.

To prep the permalinks, I look at the bottom of the left sidebar, choose Settings/permalinks, and and choose the 2nd option, day and name.  Check they are same as usual.

Ready to import content

Now if I am right, I am ready to import content.  I will come to my hosted blog, go to dashboard and export all the content to my hard drive.  This usually trips up over size and timing.   As can never remember what I wrote, I will write it down this time and make post 5 in this series!

But that will be from the new blog!  See you on the other side!

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Step 2: Consolidating my online strategy – redirecting my Posterous blog to my own domain name

Neat and tidy Posterous

I use a (free) Posterous blog as a tidy frontend to “serve” my CV at the end of emails and so on.  Here it is

Redirect a Posterous blog to your own domain name

First, of course, you must buy a domain name.  Once you’ve done that, you will need to direct your Posterous blog to the domain name.

(PS You can buy a domain name through Posterous .  I didn’t; but it looks possible.)


I bought my Domain name through Dreamhost and I intend to keep other assets on their computers, that is, use them to host some of my online assets.

“Redirecting” my Posterous account to Dreamost

My Posterous account will stay on the Posterous computer though.  But I want people who look for to be redirected there without them having to do anything extra.

The word “redirecting” is confusing, because it suggests the Posterous blog moves over to Dreamhost.  The opposite happens.  People looking for my Posterous blog will be sent by the world-wide internet system to Dreamhost who will redirect them, without them even noticing, to Posterous.

Settings on Dreamhost to “redirect” my visitors to Posterous

To setup Dreamhost to perform this magic redirection, you need to login in to Dreamhost and look in the left sidebar.  Pick manage domains.  Choose the domain that you will be linking to Posterous.  Then choose DNS.  You will get a wider screen. In the middle is the following information.

Copy the settings.  The numbers  in the second last line is the IP address of Posterous.  You will use your domain name throughout, of course, not mine.  The CNAME setting has the effect of allowing people to type your domain name without the www and finding you nonetheless.

Posterous settings

On the Posterous side, all you have to do is login, go to Manage (top menu bar), choose settings (tab one-third down) and type in your domain name.  It all looks like this.

The link up will take at least 30 minutes (the world wide web is a physically big place!).  Beware too, that once Posterous is directing to your domain name, if you break the Dreamhost side you won’t be able to get into Posterous because the WWW will still redirect anyone looking for  to the domain at Dreamhost.  You are effectively locked out!  So remember to disconnect the Posterous end before you fiddle!


Let me know if you have any problems and I’ll adjust these instructions.  It’s sometime since I did this; though I did manage to lock myself out of Posterous today.  I got back in again with a bit of Googling and reading so, all good.  Patience and tolerance of geeky English and it comes together.

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So is social media social, a waste of time, or what?

Social Media Fatigue

Earlier this week, Umair Haque wrote of his growing despondency with social media. It’s not an uncommon sentiment.  People are learning that social media is a tool that allows us to work and organize in novel ways.  It is not a panacea for all societal ills.  Indeed, like all tools, social media amplifies evil as easily as it amplifies good.

What is social media exactly?

Adrian Chan of Gravity7 sums up the issues better than I can and in suitably formal language.

Social media  “facilitates asynchronous communication between people whose mutual connectedness online can make them present to one another in a fashion that transcends the limitations of physical co-presence. And which, for its capture and storage of that communication in the form of a digital textual artifact, renders this communication in a way that, within the medium only, lends it some persistence and durability. All of which leaves behind content for later use, re-use, recontextualization, and what have you. That’s what it’s good at: mediated communication and interaction.”

In plain language, this means.
  • Social media allows us to talk more easily to more people than we can by phone, email or in person.
  • Our connection online allows us to work on projects together.
  • Social media keeps record of our communication with little effort on our part.
  • We can remix our communication for other purposes.
Social media is just a tool of communication that allows us to interact through digital media.  No more or less.

Why I am fascinated by social media

It’s what we do with social media that is interesting.  And for me, anyway, it is the possibility of ‘pull’ models that is interesting.

But just because we can do interesting things doesn’t mean to say that we do.  Nor does the presence of boring things stop us doing interesting things ~ well not so far.   It is not like work where you can be forced to do dull, useless things all day long.

That is why I am interested – the potential of organization structures that are vigorous and successful yet do not require people to do dull useless things all day long.

How, of course, are organizations that require us to do dull useless things profitable, we might ask.  Dull we know about.  Jobs were divided into small parts and done repeatedly to produce uniform products at speed.  We get MacDonalds.  Not all bad, but not fine food either.

Useless comes when the food value of a hamburger is no longer food.  How does that come about?  By what is known as “rents”.  The system allows people with vested interests to impose exploitative relationships.  Social media won’t make that stop.  We would all like to impose rents.  We plan to.  We aim to.

But social media make it possible to create new business models that don’t have to pay those rents.  That’s why so many institutions are coming under pressure.

Who will win or lose remains to be seen.  That’s the entertainment of the teen years of the 21st century.  What undermines ‘rents’?  How do ‘rent-seekers’ respond when their rents are undermined?  How does the battle play out?

The rent-seekers can still win.  This is an open-ended story.  We have to wait to the end to find out.


I write to understand the future of social media, positive psychology and the future of work

My blog as my whiteboard

Welcome.  This is my personal whiteboard where I jot down thoughts and notes as I read things around the net and make sense of what is happening in the world of work and social media as we race through the 21st century.

Positive psychology

A psychologist by training, I follow the rise of the positive movement.  Many people think positive psychology is just a surge ‘touchy-feeling’ gush that matters little in the world of hard-knocks.  Certainly, I have some reservations about the political stance, and even ethics, of some positive psychologists who appear to willing to serve the ‘haves’ and to leave the ‘have-nots’ to the protocols of self-help.

I also have some reservations about the self-proclaimed scientific or evidence-based approach which depends up on linear models and ‘positivism’ and a methodology that outsources reality and morality to forces outside our control.   Proclaiming this position while stating the ‘have-nots’ are responsible for their well-being appears to me a double-bind.  I am still to meet a positive psychologist who will engage in this debate.

Positive psychology and social media

The positive movement is far more than these reservations though and we ‘should not throw the baby out with the bath water.’  The positive movement is also the bedrock of the new networked age ushered in by the internet and more urgently by the readwrite, two-way, 2.0, or social media, the media where we communicate laterally.

In this field too, a big question is whether we are going to throw the baby out with the bath water.  Here the ‘baby’ is the command-and-control structures in the world of work.

The future of work

The world of work is not a world of positivist science, much as many of my colleagues in science try to claim. It is a world that we have made. To use Dan Pink’s words, the world of work is akin to a TV set. Our workplace procedures are a bundle of ideas that allow us to create particular solutions for a specific age.  As our circumstances change, so do our solutions.

Nonetheless, habits die hard and for that reason many methods of work will not change until there are no ‘takers’ in the community.  Working methods will survive for many reasons and in different forms, just as The Worshipful Company of Pewterers, for example, survives as a charitable organization run by descendants of pewterers and supports medical research and inner city schools and those few people still earning their living through pewter.

Changes in work that we can count on

So bearing mind that work is a matter of culture that has quite different dyanamics from high school experiments in physics, we can look at changes that are taking place in the world of work for heuristics, that is, ideas about how to run our own affairs.

For anyone well versed in management history, they know that a management system must create value.  In simple terms, the value produced by management must exceed the cost – and by a large margin.  When we are destroying value, we must go, because when we cost more than marginal value that we add to a firm, the direct producers are better off without us.

BPR, business process re-engineering, and Toyota methods of management, despite its current troubles, have already shown us how to use computers to simplify processes within an organization and between organizations and to significantly enhance our ability to deliver better products and services more reliably and less expensively.  At best, management work changes. In many instances, management work disappears.  The structure of organizations changes.  No longer does communication go up-and-down the organization.  It goes across and out.  This is not a trivial change.  It is not a matter of putting in computers.  It is a matter of taking out the cost of management.

Social media has stepped up our potential to deliver quickly to an entirely new level.  Transaction costs in many industries have plummeted and entire industries, like journalism, are about to be made redundant. Social media has changed our relationships with each other within industries and organizations.

It is no mean change that news is transmitted around the world via cell phone cameras and Twitter.  Nor is it any mean change that students can pull up HSBC on Facebook for unilaterally changing their contracts.

Yes, we will resist some changes – because we like the way we do things.  But we will probably pay dearly for that resistance.

Guessing at the other changes in  work

What is more interesting to me and the bloggers I follow is how do these new organizations work?  What opportunities do they offer?  How can we see ahead so that our actions today are relevant to our choices of tomorrow?

  • So I follow social media closely and I encourage people to acquire social media skills and experience.
  • I write up examples of social media in the world of work and business.
  • And I drill down to the principles and rules-of-thumb that we use to bundle up the solutions, the TVsets, that are working organizations and fun and viable businesses.

The positive movement and the future of work

The positive movement is part of this great wave of change. We have five basic principles that are phrased one way or another but go generally like this.

#1 This is our story

We are trying to jettison the pseudo-scientific language and management-speak and  we trying to learn to speak in terms of the hopes and dreams of the people around us. Narratives, hero’s journeys, poetry and snappy engaging talks are the mode of our time.  We encourage people to talk in their own voice.  In the social media world, we counsel against using false persona’s on Twitter, Facebook, etc.  He or she swho speaks must have the authority and experience to hold the conversation.

#2  Each of us is important

We recognize that each of us is our own hero and we have our own journeys.  Yet our own journey is also a journey of relationships. Much of leadership is hearing and understanding the journeys of people around us and finding the common cause where we journey together or part of the way.

#3  Life is an open-ended adventure

We understand that life is an open-ended journey.  We don’t know where we are going or what the new day will bring.  What we do know is who we have with us and what we do well. We know our hopes and dreams.  Rather than commit to a destination into which we shoehorn ourselves and our companions, we proceed more cautiously, reviewing as we go and shaping our destination as learn. It’s like the old advice to travellers. Taking half-the-clothes and double-the-money.  We keep ourselves flexible so that we can respond to opportunities that arise along the way.

#4  We move in the direction of the questions we ask

We manage ourselves through the questions we ask.  We know we cannot do everything and decision-making takes time, attention and resources.  So we are careful about our questions and we focus on what is worth doing and we ruthlessly rule out questions that are based on fixed ideas.  We don’t waste time worrying about what has not happened.  We attend to what we want to do and the resources we have at hand, including what we do well. Point #1 converges with this idea.  Failure and disappointment makes us moody and despondent.  We watch our language and the words we use so we don’t mood-hoover our motivation and abandon our journey downhearted and dejected, we have to do some work to watch our language.  As David Whyte says, sometimes life depends upon a walk around the lake.

#5  At any minute, we like to be in control

We celebrate the active nature of human beings. We love to do.  Give us half-a-chance, we learn new skills, try things out and help others. We like situations like computer games where can jump in and try, where we can learn and go to new levels and where we can play with others. The game designer, Jane McGonigal, described our needs as urgent optimism, tight social fabric, blissful productivity, & epic meaning.

Fortunately we know a lot about the psychology of situations that allow us such an engaged and vital existence. All the information for doing and being must be stored in our heads and and organized there in coordination with the hand that writes, the eyes that see, the feet that walk.  The thinking and control must lie with us. Then we feel like a superhero. Sometimes we are. We certainly feel alive and in flow.

The general change to working style

We don’t know where the world of work is going, in detail.  But we do know the focal point of control has moved to the consumer and therefore to the front line.  We do now that patterns of communications have changed.  If you send me a message, I expect you to answer my reply and answer my questions – quickly.  We are going to judge each other on our ability to respond quickly.

Like many people I worried about quality.  There are some jobs that require more than a 30 second response.  I no longer wonder whether the changes will happen, though.  It is only a question of how.

To find me on the internet




jo at working2 dot 0 at gmail dot com


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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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