Sunday, May 17, 2009

Come on out, the land is lovely!

On Friday I was asked for my thoughts on the UK Government's appointment of Andrew Stott as its Digital Engagement Director.

The reporter who contacted me said there was some concern that this node-connecting role, this leader of democratizing democracy and breaking down internal and external silos, should have some form of social media creds.

The most critical factor in success in social media is not having been CEO of Facebook or similar. It is being human. Andrew Stott most assuredly ticks that box.

But then, so do we all. (Image courtesy Webecho)

So what else might be helpful for the Andrew Stott's of this world?

I take a Darwinian view about success in the networked world - it is dependant on your adaptation to the new environment. And one thing is certain about adapting to an environment; first you have to live in it.

You have to flip your fishy self out of the receding waters of traditonal media (and traditional non-networked approaches to comms and value-creation, full stop), and try gasping for air on the edge of this new land.

You have to start developing the rudimentary stubby legs required - and adapt to breathing air - if you want to start leading others into this new landscape.

So, I hope Andrew Stott has been blogging away for years, learning the new ways of distribution and the epic fail of total control when making widgets. I have fingers crossed that he is Mr Two-Way Comms on twitter, where he is joining in the adhoc forming and reforming of communities of purpose on a daily basis.

And I look forward to bumping into him because surely we'll be expressing similar metadata at some point...?

You have to experience the biggest shift in communication and value creation since the printing press for yourself to have any chance of adapting to it and leading others through that adaptation.

Now, I can hear the stubborn old-school business bosses even now making the argument that you didn't need to be a book printer to understand the impact the book would have on society. You could academically dissect what was going on and predict what was likely. You could buy in a management consultancy to advise and you could make the right business decisions as a result.

Perhaps you could with books.

But the revolution of the web of co-operation is more complex, and arguably even more seismic, than Gutenberg's contribution. It is less mass and more niche. Less supply chains - more adhoc communities of purpose.

Long tails reach everybody and everything, hits don't.

The web of co-operation empowers everyone it touches. Broadcast media informs everyone it touches - in one direction only. The power flows in similar ways. The network is different - a web, not a chain.

If you could have had a stab at post-printing press rules for business success by analysing the supply chain of book publishing then for our latest revolution you must look at the shifts in who produces content, who distributes it, who controls the user experience, who controls the way in which people organise - to achieve any and everything. You have to think about all the twists and turns of the coming Eighth Mass Media.

In the eighth mass media we are the connections and how the connections are made. If you are neither a node nor a connector and have not experienced the value in bringing one extra node to a network (to a community of purpose) then I fear you'll struggle to understand how different life is up here on the dry land.

Looking with your fish eye from below the surface of the water you're going to get a very distorted view of this emerging new land.

To try to direct activity on it from under the waves seems a little optimistic.

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The rate of change is so rapid it's difficult for one person to keep up to speed. Let's pool our thoughts, share our reactions and, who knows, even reach some shared conclusions worth arriving at?