Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Information or relationships?

I was recently engaged in a piece of work aimed at transforming an organisation through the tools and techniques of social media. A big one.

Part of the process included interviews with internal stakeholders. We used a tranche of revealing qual/quan techniques to surface use and attitudes toward social within the management team.
Two questions stand out for me in revealing those attitudes.

First, I asked which was most important: information or relationships.
Later, I asked: What's the single most important thing the Internet offers?

I'm pleased to say the answer to the first question came back, consistently, without fail: Relationships.

Excellent, that tells us a lot. We humans think relationships are really important. We're super-social.

That and we know the best route to all the other stuff we need (information) is with and via other people. Team Human has been our competitive advantage since evolution began - and we haven't forgotten that.

So what of the later question (deliberately not juxtaposed)?

Consistently we got the answer 'information'.

Eh? The Internet - the engine that drives the social, sharing peer-to-peer, human connectedness we clearly think so vital, is for information first?

What's going on here?

Well, I think what we're observing is a relatively normal response in many large orgs. The intellectual argument for engaging with customers and internally with staff, is, for the most part, won.

But there is a gulf in understanding that resides on the cultural level and which must bs overcome before you can operationalise.

Choosing information over relationships suggests you think the Internet is a place you go to harvest and take from.
It suggests an attitude to the tech from the broadcast world - a place where fans somehow appear on your Facebook page and remain on passive standby until you grace them with your advertising message.

This is not a disaster. It can be fixed by engaging for yourself in the network rather than observing from planet broadcast.

And it must be fixed. Because if you plan on showing up at this party empty handed you won't be getting quite the welcome you hoped for.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone so I may have to tidy it up later ;-)


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?