The Social Age is about change: an evolution of the ecosystem and practice of work and play. Technology has blurred the boundaries between formal and social spaces whilst, concurrently, social attitudes to authority and community are changing. The amplification and ‘community forming‘ effects of social media are effecting real changes in how we collaborate. The democratisation of communication and the pervasive nature of technology are carrying this change through every aspect of our lives. it’s trite to say that change is all around, but it’s true nonetheless, and agility is the only thing to keep us afloat.
Agility: the ability to question, the mindset for change. For organisations it’s about recognising what has changed and building trust and momentum to weather it. For individuals it’s about developing new skill sets that are grounded within community (not just in knowledge) and about curating our reputation and social authority over time.
Instead of defined periods of ‘learning‘, followed by defined periods of ‘embedding‘ change, we are faced with the need to constantly adapt, to constantly learn and to constantly narrate and share that learning. For organisations, it’s a case of creating the spaces and permissions to do this. For individuals, it’s a case of developing the storytelling skills and social capital to do this effectively.
The half life of lethargy is decreasing: doing nothing simply hastens your redundancy. We have seen this with organisations whose business model is fully subverted by younger and more agile startups, and we see it at an individual level where people fall back on positional and hierarchical authority, on status and longevity to try and protect their eroded status and ability to perform.
In the Social Age, we need social authority and reputation to enhance our positional authority. It’s about leading change with humility and fairness, not just shouting loudly.
We need patterns of adaptation: not just spotting changes in the ecosystem and adapting behaviour to fit it, but rather developing the skills to question, spot trends, iterate and change and share those stories. It’s a broad picture not a reactive stance.
A lot of it is about mindset: are we effectively static and waiting for change to hit, or are we adaptive by nature? The NET Model of Social Leadership is my attempt to develop these adaptive skills: mindset, stance, behaviour. Technology will not be the answer: but it may facilitate the behaviours that save us. It’s enabling, not the end point.
From an organisational perspective, it’s about changing attitudes to risk, learning to iterate and innovate and creating permissions and spaces to do both. It’s about building trust over time through consistent behaviours and responses to experimentation. You can’t build trust if you’re erratic in your response. You can’t build trust with rules, systems, processes and policies alone. You need to be trustworthy to build trust.
Within your own organisation: how adapted are you to change? Are the patterns of behaviour defensive or innovative? Is the mindset one of change or lethargy? Only one type of organisation can create the permissions to learn, to change, to adapt, and that’s the type of organisation that will survive, that can thrive.