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In all the sessions and workshops that I attended at Davos, I was continually surprised at how little business people understand the revolution in connection and collaboration that is under way in their culture. Yes, the founders of YouTube, Facebook, Flickr and other social media were feted at Davos, so the business elite knows what they have created is important. But the takeaway for most business people there was money—how to make profit off the new social media. Which is just fine but not nearly sufficient. Very few business folks thought about how they must now change their own business organizations, management and their leadership styles to incorporate connection, collaboration and co-creation. Indeed, in a number of workshops, the most common comment verbalized around me was—OK, we have all this community and connection, but who makes the final decision? Who makes the decision?
Not the point. We now have two CEOs knocked out of their perches from Home Depot and Dell who were very much into command and control. The future, clearly, is a much more decentralized organization where leaders manage collaborative networks that reach out and down to customers, R&D scientists and engineers, designers, manufacturers, distributors all around the world in a flat culture. Think wheel and spoke, not triangle.
Funny that politicians at Davos seemed to get this more than the business people. Of course, the good politicians have always been more connected to their “customers” than business people. They have to go back to them every two, four or six years for votes. CEOs and top managers are way divorced from that—just look at their compensation.
Finally, a note of caution here. I spent an hour with Jimmy Wales, founder of Wikipedia and learned a lot from him. Remember a very small percentage of people in wikipedia or any social media actively participate in it—writing, entering stuff, editing, negotiating, dealing with one another. That’s very important. Also, Wales said there are rules of community to know, learn and enforce. It’s just like another other village or community, with a few bad people doing terrible things that must be dealt with. Social media is not a democratic utopia. Indeed, anyone who has seen the great propaganda films out of Germany from the 30s and 40s knows that crowds are not always wise. Wales is thinking of writing a book about the social aspects of social networking, what’s he’s learned at wikipedia. That would be awesome—and very important to us.
When we talk of user-generated content, social networks, the power of us, etc., we need to be a bit cautious as well as elated. For a more effusive point of view (that I mostly agree with) check out Jeff Jarvis at BuzzMachine.
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