I suppose going back to the way things were is a bit out of the question?

October 2nd, 2009

Euan Semple writes about his antipathy to the phrase Enterprise 2.0,

Stowe Boyd wrote today about his discomfort with the phrase Enterprise 2.0 and his preference for “social business” as a way of describing the changes we are seeing currently. While I understand Andrew McAfee’s thinking when he came up with the phrase I’m with Stowe – it’s too narrow, too corporate and too managerial!

And he goes onto say,

During a recent series of events for the Telegraph Business Club I felt mild disappointment when an economist claimed the recession was about to end. I explained this feeling to the audience in terms of regretting that too many people will assume that this means a return business as usual. Too many will simply carry on as they did before with the same attitudes that got us into a mess in the first place. Not enough people have felt uncomfortable for long enough to bring about real change.

Why do I believe this? Because I believe there is a fundamental change in how we do business heading our way. Driven by the networked communication tools flourishing on the web, tools like YouTube, Facebook and Twitter, not only how we communicate with those who benefit from our services but also how we organise ourselves to produce them will be changed forever.

It all sounds so dramatic, yet the evidence that this is the case. My view based upon the work I call No Straight Lines is paraphrased like this,

We are witnesses to a structural and transformational change in society, what many describe as the toxic tail end of our industrial, mass consumer, mass media era. The tragic legacy of the last 150 years is that humanity has been thin sliced and deconstructed almost to the point of destruction. Human beings have become little more than individual units of capitalism – human cogs secured in place and time whilst serving the feudal needs of the company, occasionally spiritually released through shopping, Christmas and the summer vacation.

We eke out our existence under the industrial tyrannical twins of; the obsession with numbers, and the measurement of efficiency in every walk of life, whilst ignoring the fundamental needs of humanity. Plus, an unfettered pursuit of material wealth over any other value has in fact come at a terrible cost for society, the recent banking/financial crisis, a poster child for the decades of institutionalized abuse that has deeply damaged us, spiritually and ironically for many materially.

Unfortunately; meaning, passions, interests and socialising are things for your free-time not your work-time. Worse, we as a species are cut adrift from a personal and collective sense of belonging, identity and community. The atomization of society has literally left billions of us trapped; individual atoms in a no-mans land as noisy ghosts in the machine called life. Loneliness and the loss of identity are the incubators of fundamentalism in all its myriad hues. As we all are the component parts of a complex system, if we are sick, then the system becomes sick. The patient is in my view in intensive care. This is not a recent phenomenon the first consumer group was formed in 1899 to fight for rights against what people saw as industrial and commercial muscle riding rough shod over the fundamental needs of everyday people. And Henry Candy wrote in 1926,

What we are encountering is a panicky, an almost hysterical attempt to escape from the deadly anonymity of modern life… and the prime cause is not vanity… but the craving of people who feel their personality sinking lower and lower in the whirl of indistinguishable atoms to be lost in a mass civilisation.

However, we are right now at the barricades of a communications revolution, in which humanity is renegotiating the power relationships between; people, organisations, and even governments. As social philosopher Richard Sennett argues, we want to,

recover something of the spirit of the Enlightenment on terms appropriate to our time.

We are able to recover this spirit through networked communication technologies. I argue that, the only straight lines made in nature are made by man, a metaphor for the industrialized mass media and consumer society. But nature is not like that – nature is connected and interconnected in completely different ways. If we agree that we live in a participatory-networked society, as espoused by many across the globe, then we need a different philosophy, language and framework in which we operate.

Therefore, our imperative is to de-school ourselves in a philosophy and a way of thinking and acting that has delivered us into a cultural, ideological and economic cul-de-sac. We need to liberate ourselves from how we were once taught to think and live our lives, stemming from the ethos of industrialisation and the mass consumer society.  We may need a form of dualism for a while, understanding that we are in the process of making a journey, spiritually, socially, and economically from one way of seeing and behaving in the world, to another.  The source of the solution lies in finding once again the ‘being’ in human being. The fundamental need we have is for us to commune and find shared meaning, because without such collective meaning or personal sense of belonging, social isolation deprives us of both our feeling of social connection and our individual sense of purpose. On both counts, the results can be devastating, not only for the individual, but for societies as well.

Straight line thinking stops HERE.

Euan goes onto say

To quote David Weinberger, one of the authors of The Cluetrain Manifesto, “conversations can only take place between equals”. This is to say that, at the point of the conversation taking place, both parties have to be willing to stand on an equal footing and be prepared to listen to each other as much as to open up and communicate. Even if one party is the chief executive and the other a new secretary, or one is a large multi nation corporation’s communications team and the other is a customer who had the temerity to complain – if, for the purposes of the conversation, they aren’t prepared to accord each other equal respect, then it is not a conversation but one party talking at another.

Now we are obsessed with BIG, big media likes big business, but lets get some perspective. 80% of the GDP of this country comes from SME’S, even though big media likes to focus on ‘big business’, and ‘big things’. The reality is that the engine room of growth in the UK are the SME’s. They are more likely to want to have a more conversational and to be hinest cheaper and more direct relationship with their customers. Zappo’s insist very member of its company is on twitter – to become part of the permeable human interface in a distributed economic network.

And this communications revolution is about people, its not about organisations. Personally, the term, ‘social media’ makes me gag, like Enterprise 2.0 seems to have the same physiological effect on Stowe and Euan. Social Media, is BIG media’s effort in wanting to cosy up to the communications revolution because it threatens their very existence.

Don’t believe me ask ITV, and the Observer. And behind closed doors many big media groups will admit they are staring down at the abyss.

Euan’s perspective is this on this topic

In a world where the boundaries between an organisation and its customers are blurring the best advocates for your business, believe it or not, are very often your own staff or experts. If you are able to allow and encourage those who work for you to engage with your clients or customers then you are much more likely to engender the direct, person-to-person, conversations, that will make you so much more effective in the online world. This isn’t to say that you just suddenly unleash untutored and unskilled bloggers wild onto the Internet. In fact it is not in your staff’s interests to be placed in such a vulnerable position. Work with them to determine what sort of guidance they might need, what sort of policies may be appropriate, and how to give them the skills to communicate effectively on your behalf.

Euan brings so much common sense to an important but sadly over hyped terminology.

  1. 2 Responses to “I suppose going back to the way things were is a bit out of the question?”

  2. By Donna on Oct 6, 2009

    Provocative and thoughtful – will be percolating on this one for some time. Thank you…

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