Saturday, May 9, 2009

Tell Me A Story......

For those of you that are on LinkedIn you know that I was working on a presentation for a group of executives on the topic of Web 2.0 or "social networking".

I had the opportunity to share my thoughts with the group yesterday, so now I am taking the opportunity to share my perspective with you and seek your perspective.

In short, social networking is about relationships and trust, not about technology!

I want to state for the record that I am certainly no tech whiz (I type with two fingers). I am no "hipster" as I am a 52 year old white guy.

The reason I say tell me a story is because I believe that social networking is going back to the future. Once upon a time there was no media, no newspapers, and very few books. In fact the vast part of the population was illiterate, and the controlling powers liked it that way.

We relied on an "oral" tradition. We passed along stories and legends from one person to another. We relied on relationships. I would submit that social networking is a return to that model, passing along information to each other.

As I have talked, written and blogged about the need for a new social contract I have consistently talked about three foundational concepts:

Engagement is a far superior environment to any other in a business or organizational setting.
The foundation of all meaningful organizational systems isrelationships between people.
Trust is the essential element of functional relationships and engagement.

The bottom line is you will never have engaged relationships with your employees, your customers, or your community without trust. Much of the "new" generations have lost trust in our current relationship infrastructure and models.

Management expert Gary Hamel indicates that among other things the "Facebook" generations embrace a number of new "principles" that you need to be aware of:

Contribution counts for more than "credentials"
Hierarchies are natural not prescribed.
Power comes from sharing information not hoarding it.
Opinions compound and are "peer" reviewed.
Users can veto most policy decisions.

If you take a look at these things they represent pretty profound differences from how management and leadership is taught and practiced. To quote popular songwriter John Mayer (for those of you unfamiliar with his music he was the guy that "dumped" both JenniferAnniston and Jessica Simpson, if neither of them is familiar to you then you live in a cave so it doesn't matter) "when they own the information they can twist it all they want".

And we do; the biggest concern about social networking I hear from members of the "greatest generation" and "boomers" is "how do I control what they say about me on blogs, etc?" the answer is you don't! You participate and contribute you don't control.

When I created my compliance to commitment model the third "pillar" is information. It is critical and the emerging generations haveunprecedented access to it. Social networking is also based on the most powerful force in the universe (in my opinion), the power ofrelationships.

When you have heard me talk about the "new" engagement model you have seen the five levels described by BlessingWhite:

Best Product/Practices
Excitement and Pride

At the risk of being overly simplistic, I don't think you can create the higher levels without creating a relationship.

When you see how social networks describe those relationships they use words like "friend" and "connection". There is an implication of trust and shared experience.

For me when I write, blog, and speak it is always with that intent; to build and sustain relationships and trust. To inform, to share, and to solicit other viewpoints and perspectives.

So I will leave you with a couple of thoughts;

Engagement is the most powerful tool that organizations have to increase productivity, profitability, and sustainability.
Engagement is built on relationships and relationships are built on trust. Don't try to "sell" your idea, share a story and invite others to share theirs.

I am going to keep building "lighthouses" and telling "stories". I hope as I share them we will understand and join the "new" generations and build on trust and shared values. Commitment is better than compliance, period.

Mark Herbert

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