Nothing lasts forever: not pyramids, temples or mountains. Not ideas, languages or suns. Things change: fail to change and we get swept away, made redundant by the passage of time and ideas.
The half life of lethargy is shortening: in the Social Age, change is constant and only those organisations able to adapt can thrive. Doing nothing, waiting to see what happens, is no longer a viable option. As the pace and tempo of change keeps rolling forward, as the iterations of change run past, it’s harder to adapt and easier to be left behind.
Just think of your High Street. If you even have a High Street anymore. I wanted to buy a CD this week on actual plastic instead of bits and bytes. I’ll go to HMV, but does it even exist anymore? I have no idea: retail has changed, the older giants eroded by new business models and changed habits of consumption. Faster than i can keep up.
Some fortresses are assailed from without, others changed from within: in our own time subversive social communities can drive positive change, like the Healthcare Radicals at work in the NHS, leading by example at every level of the organisation, a democratised force for change and reform. No battering ram from without, but instead an evolution of values and intent within. People unwilling to wait for others to make the changes, instead pledging to make their world a better place, to stand up and be counted. Any organisational change should include the nurturing and development of these internal, sanctioned, supported communities, enabling and empowering people to lend their voices to the movement.
The changes we see in the Social Age reflect an evolved nature of authority: as socially moderated authority subverts formal hierarchies, we see the ability for anyone to build a community and drive change. Alongside the democratisation of publishing, which lets us build our shared manifestos and stories, organisations can’t ignore their communities. Especially when parts of those communities demanding change may inhabit your own offices. It’s not ‘us and them‘, it’s ‘us and us‘.
Social communities respect no barriers of concrete and brick: they are not dependant upon your systems or technology. They are agile, fluid, responsive, synchronous. They may support your every effort, as Apple knows with it’s legions of fans, or they may knock you right off track, as the energy companies feel when they go prospecting in Antarctica.
When Corfe fell, you’d have to ride a good hour or two to get your horse born message to the local manor. Today, it would be tweeted live. Social collaborative technology may not be entirely synchronous, but it’s as close as it matters. Stories are amplified before you even know they exist.
Organisations can adapt: they can be responsive to the changing ways we live and learn, the ways we share and collaborate, or they can resist and become increasingly out of touch with the realities of the Social Age.
If you want to be magnetic to talent, you’d better be in the first camp, and who wouldn’t want great talent on board in an age when the reputation of these people can enhance and build your own. Something in it for everyone.
To do things the way you do just because that’s what you’ve always done is the phrase that will consign you to history. To question: to think, reflect, adapt, that’s what the Social organisation needs to do.
Creating spaces for people to explore, to learn, to change. Making the change co-owned so the journey is taken together.
We can build castles as monuments to our greatness: solid symbols of power that dominate their landscapes, but we do it in a world that no longer respects that geography. Alongside and throughout it all run the social communities that have no respect for how tall your hill is or how thick the walls are.
A tower won’t make you invincible. It’s a symbol of a bygone age.
Organisations should address three core areas: leadership, learning and support.
How are their leaders engaged in social spaces, building reputation, developing communities, engaging in the conversation.
How are they supporting learning and ‘sense making‘ communities to make people more effective.
How are they supporting these changes.
Addressing these three areas sits at the heart of the organisations adaptability and responsiveness.