Today’s Social Media A-Listers: The Archetype of Tomorrow’s Company Leaders

Dennis Howlett had a post yesterday on Chris Brogan’s blog, Web 2.0- Was It Ever Alive? In the post, he takes the postion that much of the value of “social” is overstated, and will suffer from low internal adoption. He also believes the Gen Y/millennial fascination with social media will pass as workplace realities creep in.

Another post I read a couple days ago was on the New York Times Bits blog, Will Microblogging at Work Make You More Productive? This post and Dennis’s are nearly diametrically opposed. Included in the comments to the post was a very pro-social media point of view from a 22-year old named Emma.

Taking the two viewpoints together, I came up with this chart:

This certainly parallels the recurring generational differences on things like war, helping the poor, music and many other aspects of our lives. Use of social software in the workplace is actually one of those things that I believe will survive the inevitable changes in life perspective that will occur for Emma.

The ME in Social Media

Social media is a diverse pool of interests, motivations and relationships. It’s quite flexible for the uses you want.

Emma is very much in the learning mode. She’s engaging others on Twitter to diversify her knowledge network (see The Revenue Impact of Enterprise 2.0 to understand the value of this). There is no reason for her to discontinue this behavior, and indeed, she’s helping her career via social software.

Now as Emma progresses through her career, she’ll build up an external and internal network that provides sources of information, opinion and perspectives. These will be immensely valuable to her.

She also start to lead others. Inside her company, there will be applications that integrate collaboration and social networks natively with the apps where she does her work. Emma, and other talented young executives, will emerge as key players inside their companies by playing a couple roles:

Content producers and information filters. And this is where the A-Listers of today provide the examples.

Enterprise A-Listers

What does Robert Scoble do? Louis Gray? Chris Brogan? Brian Solis? Even Dennis Howlett? They are influencers, they have the power to bring high visibility to what they talk about and what they share.

What makes a company run? Employees with the judgment to see what’s needed and the ability to influence the organizational allocation of resources.

Currently, this influence is built only on the in-person encounters that occur in meetings and common project work. This won’t go away, but it is a very serendipitous sort ecology inside the organization.

The next generation of employee leaders will skillfully use social software inside their companies to influence the direction of the company and to build out highly visible profiles that will aid their career advancement. Over on the Connectbeam blog, I wrote a post called Five Moves of Power Users in Enterprise 2.0. The post examines how proficient users of social software would operate inside companies. Here are the five moves I described:

  1. SEO your social profile
  2. Build a good-sized social network base
  3. Comment, engage, discuss
  4. Celebrate and communicate the workstreams of others
  5. Share information with a vengeance

Of course, the power in all this only happens if the employee happens to be talented and have good judgment about the company and her peers. Mediocre people will be pretty quickly exposed if they attempt this.

But the point still stands – companies will benefit by having better collaboration and dissemination of colleagues’ perspectives and ideas, and employees will benefit from a higher awareness of the things that make the company. And the social software power users will emerge in prominent roles inside companies.

I’m curious what you think. Please take a second to vote on the future of social software in the workplace:


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About Hutch Carpenter
Chief Scientist Revolution Credit

5 Responses to Today’s Social Media A-Listers: The Archetype of Tomorrow’s Company Leaders

  1. Hutch – you’re living in fairy land. I’m from the Summer of Love generation, the same generation that thought the Paris Riots would bring real change. Guess what? Many of those same people are running large companies and are the very people against whom so many of the young guns want to rail.

    When you say: “What makes a company run? Employees with the judgment to see what’s needed and the ability to influence the organizational allocation of resources.” You could not be more wrong. What makes companies run is what management says makes companies run.

    And what exercises management but the amount of bonus they’ll get from hitting targets. I’m not condoning it. I’m stating facts.

    So here’s a cautionary tale. In 1993 I came up with a plan that would have seen our firm sell off 2,000 customers, slash real estate investments and double our income by using collaborative, networked technologies. Sound familiar?

    The plan was rejected.

    Here’s the kicker. I was a 10 year partner in the firm at the time. I’d earned my bones.

    That, my friend, is the harsh reality of trying to bring change.

  2. Dennis – you speak truth in so many ways here. I know many companies operate on the basis of “just do what I say!” The common refrain that enterprise 2.0 is more culture than tools applies.

    Your experience with trying to get collaborative technologies installed is interesting. I’m sure I have only a snippet of the story. But it sounds like the core issue wasn’t the collaborative technology…it’s the sell off 2,000 customers and the slashing of real estate investments.

    Here’s my argument back to you. I’m sure there was a compelling basis for what you proposed. I personally have pushed initiatives in my previous companies too.

    The hardest part is that * you * may be picking up signals and gathering valuable information along the way…but the people you talk to don’t yet have that information or perspective.

    This ability to persuade others in the organization to see things your way is challenging enough. You don’t who shares your point of view, there’s no good way to share the info and perspectives you find. You’re stuck with email and trying to coordinate peoples’ calendars.

    My guess is you had the customer sell-off / real estate slashing / collab tech idea brewing for a while. What might E2.0 have done to help?

    Lay the groundwork with a series of info and opinion nuggets in the months beforehand. A lot of E2.0 is sharing information – ESME, blogs, (pb)wikis, forums, social bookmarking, soc nets. These are the tools of the trade.

    Stowe Boyd has some interesting points around the power of “the flow”. The idea that a cascading stream of activity and information is powerful for attention and share of mind. I think there’s a lot of merit to that argument (in some ways an updated version of advertising). Don’t rest on a single PowerPoint or meetings to make your case. Build it over time.

    The typical non-E2.0 tools are limited for building a case over time. That’s an area where I see a lot of opportunity.

  3. @hutch – you’re right – this was not something cooked up on a whim or a prayer. It was a well thought out, carefully constructed plan, with a lot of prior priming of the pump.

    It came down to a simple fact that is common in management: the others didn’t want to move out of their comfort zone. Fat, happy and content.

    E2.0 doesn’t change that.

    Another nuance on this: I was partner in a British firm of Chartered Accountants. These are people upon whom business relies day in and out. They are among the most retarded when it comes to looking at technology and change because they are so heavily risk averse.

    I still have a lot to do with that world and almost nothing has changed in 15 years or should I say 25 years.

    The lawyers are making a better job of assimilating new techniques than the accountants.

    I’m not even convinced it is generational but based on traditions going back 130 years and on ‘systems’ going back 600 years. That’s a lot of DNA to shift.

    I could write a book on it – heck – I’ve got a 3 year old blog on the topic (grin)

  4. Wallen's says:

    I agree social media will change the way companies are organized and work (collaboration communication, etc.). BUt it willl take a lot lot of time and I don’t know exactly how. The thing is that in any big corp, there is much more power struggle and politics. In this context, information is a power lever so for example sharing an good idea is dangerous as you may not get the benefit for your career.

  5. Pingback: Case Study: My Starbucks Idea : Scalable Intimacy

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