The 2nd Dimension of Social Leadership is Engagement. This is about community, reputation and authority: about how social leaders bring people together, how they interact within communities and build reputation as a result, as well as understanding how this gives authority in a world where positional power is subverted by reputation.Today i want to explore the 3rd Dimension: Technology. This involves three components: collaboration, social capital and co-creation. It’s not about software and code, but rather about how technology facilitates community building, delivers experiences. We’re looking at how Social Leaders need to use technology to foster and support Narrative and Engagement, looking at how the first two dimensions rely on the third.
Social Leadership is inherently collaborative: it’s about communities. Social Leaders need to recognise the function of communities and support both their establishment (in agile ways around challenges and projects) as well as understanding their role and the processes of moderation and support. The role of technology in communities is largely around facilitation and dissemination: our PCs, smartphones and iPads provide access whilst we are on the move, meaning a shift towards more synchronous engagement in dialogue. ‘Little and often‘ is the order of the day: collaborative learning spaces are not highly reflective, but they are partially so.
The value in more in the dialogue and the sharing than thinking of it like your life’s work (there are exceptions, but broadly i see these collaborative community spaces as conversations with an extra dimension added. There is more room to think than in a straight conversation, but the meaning is still emergent from the group, it’s not the highly reflective space of a book or article. They rely on a pace of dialogue, on the speed and responsiveness of conversation.
Collaboration is about forming mutually beneficial relationships, but the benefits may not be synchronous: you build credit against your reputation that may be cashed in later. Collaboration takes place within communities, but the existence of a community does not guarantee collaboration: it needs to be fostered. When this is done using technology, it differs from ‘in the real world‘, and that’s why ‘community’ falls under Engagement, but ‘collaboration’ sits within technology. We have to understand the tools at our disposal.
Within Technology, we need to explore methods for understanding and mapping collaboration, strategies for collaboration and how people engage and form relationships. It’s about understanding reciprocity. Understanding these foundations lets us more effectively structure our interventions and inputs, helping us derive maximum value.
Collaboration falls under ‘Technology‘ because i’m particularly interested in how we use technology to remain engaged with those groups whilst we are on the move, whilst we are within our everyday reality rather than the abstract classroom or workshop.
Practical: community mapping exercises and ways of characterising modes of interaction within those spaces, as well as strategies for engagement in an agile way. Methods for assessing which spaces to use to support new communities and how technology can facilitate our leadership style.
Social Capital is one’s ability to survive and thrive in collaborative online communities: it’s about success in engagement, about safeguarding people against mistakes and about preventing anyone being disenfranchised through skill or technology. It’s part of the role of the Social Leader to have high social capital, but also to utilise a range of methodologies to develop this in others.
Trust and integrity are important concepts in the development of social capital: relationships are based on these but, in the Social Age, where personality is projected into virtual spaces, things are not as clear as you might think. Social spaces are not independent of context: what will my employer think, what will my friends of colleagues think, what are the consequences of conversations? Social Leaders have to have the skills to ensure nobody is left behind, to ensure that collaboration is fostered through great conversations and narratives, not controlled through policies and punishment. Collaboration relies on clarity and fairness.
Practical: we have to explore methodologies for building social capital (as well as identifying exclusion and addressing it.
The co-creation of meaning is one of my favourite topics: it’s about how we come together to learn and it ties in with other areas i’ve explored previously around music and narrative. When we learn, we create meaning out of knowledge, out of what we find out. Meaning is personal, contextual, time limited and evolving: it’s created in the moment and moves over time.
Within groups, we go through a process of co-creation, where consensus is reached and methodologies applied to deal with dissent. In the Social Age, this conversation takes place in real spaces as well as online communities and within our networks, through synchronous and asynchronous conversations. Understanding the process, being able to facilitate and participate in the co-creation of meaning is a key social leadership skill.
It’s about understanding how people come together to make sense of the world around them, how we cope with a thrive on change, how relationships are formed and evolve and how we respond to new inputs as a group. It’s the living, breathing heart of how organisations work: creating meaning as a group. This is what shapes organisational culture and thinking.
As with collaboration, our ‘technology‘ focus here is on understanding the realities of how this works in the Social Age, facilitated by technology, but all about people.
Practical: exercises here will be about understanding co-creation and the individual roles within it (subject matter, information, validator, narrator etc).
Over the next month or so i’ll be revisiting each of the 3 Dimensions of Social Leadership and fleshing out the nine Components, building models around each one.
The Social Age needs Social Leaders. Some of these will be grown from within, some attracted from outside, but whatever the case, we need to develop skills for narrative and engagement, facilitated by technology.