I was humbled to see that my “Social Business is Dead! Long Live What’s Next!” article on Brian Solis’ site struck a chord with a lot of people, igniting conversations around the web, inside big Social Business vendors and in online communities. It was shared in a positive context over 1,000 times, but it also seems a few people saw the hyperbole of the headline and didn’t read any further. Some friends like Stowe Boyd, even accused me of not understanding the difference between social media and social business – despite the fact that he knows differently from direct personal conversations, and from my work to define both concepts over the years in conversations just like this one taking place now about the future of work.
It is unfortunate, but not uncommon, to deal with these sorts of less than flattering comments in the egosphere of social media. Today more than ever, what we need for us to move forward is respectful and honest dialogue where we can discuss underlying concepts without unnecessary personal barbs. My post was about much more then marketing or memeology. It clearly wasn’t about social media in the external or marketing sense. A thorough reading of the lengthy article demonstrates I am most interested in hacking away at the underlying problems to develop new models for this new age.
Language is but one, albeit important, part of my Social Business is Dead post. The language we use must reflect our deeper intention and must resonate with its intended audience. In this case, the people who decide where to invest their organization’s capital was foremost on my mind. Words can divide us or unite us. They can inspire us or dampen our spirits. They can lift us up or cut us down. They can also describe a very complex idea, in seconds instead of hours, if you share a cultural or historical context with the writer, or if the concept can be readily conveyed through other devices and metaphors.
This is why we have talked over the years about the need for the back and forth of conversation to create understanding. Reading a phrase or a sentence is often not sufficient to understand where someone is coming from or where they are seeking to go. This is also a problem with our sound bite driven news cycles and those taking other people’s words out of context to make one position seem stronger at the expense of another. If we truly care about driving forward positive outcomes for an organization, an industry or even society, we need to engage in respectful dialog with each other. We need to create an opportunity to really HEAR what someone is meaning with their words instead of passing it through our own biases and filters and distorting their intention and meaning.
It is for this reason that I made a call for leaders to come together in my post on Defining The Future of Work at the Work Hackers Summit. It is time to convene those who are using different language to define the future of work to create a compelling vision, discuss our differences, and find common ground to be stronger together then we are separately. Whether you are talking about Enterprise 2.0, Social Business, Responsive Organizations, Agile Business Enterprises, The Future of Work or any other term du jour, we are all mostly aligned around common outcomes using different language and different distinctions. Whether you use a combination of a Symposium and Open Space like we will be doing with the Work Hackers Summit, or you participate in a Chautaqua like Boyd suggests doesn’t matter. Coming together is what matters. Learning what methods work best in which situations for achieving key results matters. Spreading and sharing our success matters. Convening a diverse set of perspectives in respectful dialog matters. And what matters most to me, as with Social Media Club previously, is helping more individuals realize their power to fix what is broken and to create greater value for themselves, their employers, their clients and society.
So What Was The Real Point of “Social Business is Dead”?
The point I was trying to convey in my article on Social Business is Dead was in part about the language around Social Business losing its power and allure, but ultimately about the need for an easier to understand vision for the future of work, to define it’s unique characteristics and to collaboratively work together on the development of a map on how we get from here to there. It was also, in part, about a need to inspire and empower more individuals to find courage to hack work - to fix what is broken, and to strive to adapt the world to us ‘unreasonable’ people. It was also, obviously, about saying something a little controversial to expand the conversation I’ve been having with consultants, technology vendors, VC’s, authors and senior executives over the past several months.
In Boyd’s piece, he puts this in different terms saying that “Social Business isn’t Dead, But It Isn’t Enough Either”, in part supporting my underlying position while debating my headline. While I am grateful that he would respond directly to me in his blog post and share it with his readers, it is strange that he didn’t seem to disagree with my “Social Business” being dead position when I spoke with him about it at the Work Revolution Summit in September.
What I know, and you know if you are reading this, is that the world has fundamentally changed. The connected society in which we now live is markedly different from the post-industrial one. Organizations have to change structurally, operationally and technologically. More specifically, they need to recognize that, in Bill Jensen’s words, “humans aren’t resources, they are assets and should be treated accordingly.” But ultimately there is so much that needs to change in light of our recent technological and sociological advancements, it is nearly impossible to address all of it in a single post or even a single book.
In today’s world of business, EVERYTHING MATTERS, and there is no simple string theory yet to describe the future state we seek. Which is why I am calling for us to come together at the Work Hackers Summit in early February 2014 (details TBA) to talk about it respectfully with one another. We need more entrepreneurs to develop new tools for self management as I am doing with my new startup Alynd. We can shine a light on the things that are no longer working inside large organizations and small ones as I did during my time at Deloitte. We can each contribute our insights from our experiences and make a bigger difference together.
What I know is that the organizational structure needs to change. The way the organization is governed needs to change. The way we work together needs to change. How we create value needs to change. And yes, how we talk about it needs to change too.
What I also know is that none of this might happen until there is total collapse of the corporate structure or the socioeconomic environment in which we operate. I am hopeful this need not be the case, but we have seen this happen to countless industries as demonstrated in Mary Meeker’s Internet Trends Report for 2013 where she points out how the mighty have fallen and our need to rethink everything. This revolution needs to come from the bottoms up AND the top down, everyone, from every perspective needs to rethink what they are doing and why.
What I tried to convey, and what many people who read the entire Social Business is Dead blog post realized, was that there is a need for action. That leaders, change agents and work hackers alike need to find courage, tell the emperor he has no clothes, embrace failure, and continue to try and fix things. As I said in my closing paragraph:
Your assignment, should you choose to accept it, is not to get caught up in the words, but to connect with each other and figure out how to re-imagine our broken corporations and set about trying to fix them. Fail fast, fail often and find the greatest success possible.
I tried to get a lot of the points I saw as leading us to our future into my post, perhaps I just used too many of them.
I tried to paint a picture of the pain so many people are experiencing inside their broken organizations and to explain why the most talented are fleeing big organizations.
I tried to explain that the word “social” is not the word that is inspiring leaders to invest in better models, better processes or better people.
I also explicitly stated:
While I believe Social Business’ time has come and is now gone, I still am one of the believers. The idea, the need and the opportunity are simply too huge to ignore. Words are powerful. Words are important. But the idea is too big, the pull too strong and the need too great to be held back by the failure of two words to win the attention and budgets of corporate leaders.
Thankfully, my article resonated with many people and seemingly only turned off a few.
From my perspective, it is great either way because we need the conversation. Don’t let the debate or debaters distract you from what really matters. It’s not what I say or do that will change your world. It’s not what anyone else says or does. It is what you do. It is what you say. And as I close again, I will cite one of my heroes who has lifted myself and many others… as Howard Rheingold says “what it is –> is up to you!”