Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Is this the dawn of social networks?



In times of uncertainty and economic instability, building and nurturing our relationships to other people will become more important than ever. This has to do with the simple fact that loyalty between employers and employees get weaker in harsh economic times. This loyalty exists only as long as you contribute to the bottom-line results. As a response to this, we must turn to the real loyalties which can be found in family, friends and former colleagues. People who we trust and who trust us back. We will also turn our focus from consumption of meaningless goods to nurturing our relationships with other people.

As for social networking and sites like Facebook and LinkedIn, I expect them to become even more important in times like these. People will use them less for leisure and more as tools for finding jobs. Organizations will also rely more on their employees’ personal networks to make business as it gets harder and harder to sell big shiny offers. Instead they need to sell on relationships and trust. In times of uncertainty, most people rather buy from someone they know in person and trust.

From what Tom Davenport wrote yesterday in the post “Is Web 2.0 Living on Thin Air?” it seems as Tom does not understand social media – or even worse, people. Maybe the post just expresses his longings back to a time where he felt more at home (the industrial era):
“Have you ever sat at Starbucks with your Mac laptop open, sipping your mochaccino or your chai latte, and looked around at the others just like you? Did you wonder whether our economy had grown a little overly precious? How can we really be producing value if we're all sitting around blogging and Facebook-friending each other”

“Instead of finding more ways for us to all yap at each other, in this more sober economy we may want to emphasize other priorities. What new products and services will make for better, healthier lives and relationships? How can companies improve their performance? How can teenagers improve their math and science skills, instead of their texting skills?”
What if Facebook actually is enriching people’s life and helps them to build and nurture strong and healthy relationships with other people? What if these services are more worth to people that buying a new flat-screen TV or car?

In addition, is texting not great skill to develop? I personally believe that social and communication skills are more important than math and science skills today. The global networked world relies on its inhabitants to be able to communicate efficiently. Employees that keep what they know to themselves are of little use to an organization. Simply put - in this world it doesn’t matter if you are a math genius if you have insufficient social or communication skills.

Finally, organizations that want to become more efficient and innovative should probably focus a lot more on making communication and sharing of information and knowledge work a smoothly as possible. Because when they fail, it is always due to bad communication is one way or another (does the lack of communication, transparency and openness from the banks which have caused the current financial crisis ring any bells?).