This is first in what I plan to be series of posts about the evolving social ecology, which embraces social media, social networks, communities of practice, enterprise collaboration technologies, social business and anything to do with social learning, collaboration, cooperation and sharing. Quite a wide remit I know, but I believe there is common thread flowing through all of these topics, memes and disciplines, namely the empowerment of people to take responsibility for their own personal and professional development.
The social ecology influences just about everything we do. From the way we communicate, get information, buy and sell, travel, live and learn, to our very health and wellbeing. For those who thrive on change this is might be perceived as just part of human evolution. For those less comfortable with the rapid and disruptive effects it is having on their lives, it might feel more like a revolution, i.e. something they can’t control or influence – and hence the title for this series of posts.
People, Environment or Technology?
Though we might like to think that “it’s the people, not the technology that matters”, the truth is that the two are now so inexorably linked in the developed world that it’s difficult to imagine how we could get anything done if technology was taken out of the equation.
Technology is changing the way organisations communicate with their employees, partners, stakeholders and customers. Email was the essential business tool in the 1980s, but we are now living in a world where people want to communicate and share on social networks such as Facebook, Google+, Twitter and LinkedIn. The Cloud has opened up opportunities for much more work to be done away from the traditional office environment. In fact, more and more knowledge workers expect data and information to be available anywhere, anytime and on any device.
This demand has fuelled the enormous growth in mobile and web Apps, and accessing and downloading apps is now a familiar and trusted process for owners of mobile devices (e.g. smartphones and tablets). More than six billion mobile phones are in use worldwide, enabling users to socialise online wherever they go and inspiring a new range of leisure and business applications. Smartphone adoption, which is projected to reach 50 per cent of consumers globally by 2015, will bring more than 1 billion new users online who may never access the Web from a personal computer. (McKinsey. The Social Economy: Unlocking value and productivity through social devices, July 2012).
Against this background we’re seeing enormous amounts of unorganised content being generated by social media; everyone is potentially a publisher. To quote Clay Shirky “Publishing is no longer a job; it’s a button”.
And if it’s so easy to publish, it’s even easier to share – just one click of a button and it’s shared with all of your Facebook/Twitter/Google+ followers. Your network of friends and followers will in turn share with their networks. Tweets beget more tweets, which might stimulate new comments and new Tweets. And so it goes on. According to various reports, information is doubling every two years. By 2020 the world will generate 50 times the amount of information it now has (source: IDC). How to make sense of this information torrent and separate that important signal from all of the noise?
Social networks continue to grow and proliferate. Facebook has set the benchmark for on-line sharing and has become the foghorn of human consciousness. Google+ continues to gain traction and Twitter has established itself as the place for real-time news, where timeliness trumps accuracy. Professional journalism is becoming niche, as people increasingly rely on social media for news and not the traditional newsprint and TV media channels. How does this affect our perceptions of truth and reality? Who do we trust and how credible are our sources?
Social networks enable a wider range of connections and opportunities to find people and develop relationships. How best to manage these relationships? There are a bewildering variety of methods and tools: how to choose and learn to use?
Is the future likely to be as I’ve previously described as Personalised, Mobile and Appified ?
Key Challenges and Opportunities
So, to set the scene and agenda for future posts in this series, and with thanks to David Wilcox for inspiring these points, these are what I consider to be the key challenges and opportunities for anyone who wants to survive and thrive in this emergent social ecosystem:
- Social media is generating enormous amounts of unorganised content: how to make sense of that.
- Social networks enable a wider range of connections: how to find people and develop relationships.
- New forms of collaboration are made possible by social media and networks: how to organise and manage.
- There are a bewildering variety of methods and tools: how to choose and learn to use.
- The new ways of making sense, connecting, collaborating, and using technology throw up the need for new skills: what are the new roles and the new skills?
- The emphasis on open access and sharing changes where value may reside: so what are the new business models?
- Social capital is becoming increasingly important in establishing trust and credibility in the virtual world: how do we increase or measure our social capital?
I will attempt to answer as many of these questions as I can in this series of posts over the coming weeks. In the mean time, comments and views are always welcome, particularly if you think I’ve missed an important facet of the social and collaborative landscape.
Social Ecology -a definition:
Social ecology advocates a reconstructive and transformative outlook on social and environmental issues, and promotes a directly democratic, confederal politics. As a body of ideas, social ecology envisions a moral economy that moves beyond scarcity and hierarchy, toward a world that reharmonizes human communities with the natural world, while celebrating diversity, creativity and freedom. Source: Wikipedia