In the Industrial Age, knowledge was power. Today, the ubiquity of information has made knowledge a commodity. In today’s Social Age, connection is power.
So, how connected is your organization to its network?
The Social Age is the age of OPEN: Ordinary People, Extraordinary Network. Yes, we’re all ordinary (non-expert) in many ways essential to our success. But through our networks – the people we’re connected to, some of them highly expert in ways we are not – we can all be extraordinary when it matters most: as individuals and, together, as organizations.
But it isn’t the size of one’s network that matters. Rather, what matters most is
- the quality of expertise within our networks,
the ability to quickly and easily find these experts as needed, and most importantly…
- their willingness to lend a hand when called.
- It’s not merely who we are connected to, but how deeply, that defines our potential for success.
What does this mean for the future of organizational communication? In the Social Age, choosing the best collaboration technology available to identify our top talent no matter where it resides within the org, and actually using that technology well … those are merely table stakes. Yes, they’re necessary if we want to make it to 2020, but alone they aren’t sufficient.
The more important question is, once you’ve found the right people within your network to help you through whatever opportunity or challenge you face, will they answer your call?
Will those in your network – your first- and second-level connections – lift a finger to help you when you need them most?
That is why the Social Age is the age of the relentless giver. In order to thrive, individuals and organizations need to give, give, give: to their “friends”/followers/connections … and to their actual friends … long before they need a favor in return. That is the only way to turn our networks extraordinary.
How does an organization do this? There are many tactical ways, but they all stem from the same principle: the ethic of giving. Of providing value.
- Of training our employees so well in social fluency that they can leave, but treating them so well they won’t want to, to borrow a phrase from Virgin’s Richard Branson.
- Of providing tools such as meddle.it that help them develop their own personal brands.
- Of asking each of our influencers, “What’s in it for you in helping us spread the word about our company? Or what might be in it for you that perhaps we haven’t thought of yet?”
The Social Age is as different from the Industrial Age as that was from the Agricultural Millennia before it. We no longer live in a time of the individual achieving greatness against all odds, alone and heroic. This is a time of We, not of Me. It’s a time when deeply connected networks are achieving great things, while those still playing by old-school rules are foundering.
Connect enthusiastically. Give relentlessly. And lead bravely. Do that, and the future is yours!
(Originally published on the IBM Social Business Insights Blog)