Thursday, September 8, 2011


From Edward M. Hallowell’s, "Connectedness,"  in Finding the Heart of the Child, Association of Independent Schools in New England, Inc., 1993:
"What is connectedness?  It is a sense of being a part of something larger than oneself.  It is a sense of belonging, or a sense of accompaniment.  It is that feeling in your bones that you are not alone.  It is a sense that, no matter how scary things may become, there is a hand for you in the dark.  While ambition drives us to achieve, connectedness is my word for the force that urges us to ally, to affiliate, to enter into mutual relationships, to take strength and to grow through cooperative behavior." 
If there is one word that can describe the era we are now entering, and the power that disrupts and changes everything from our individual and social lives to business environments and society, it is probably this word: Connectedness.

Connectedness is the state of being connected, about being “joined or fastened together”, “associated with or related to others, especially to influential or important people.” (The Free Dictionary). It can also be seen as a sense of being a part of something larger than oneself, as a sense of belonging, or a sense of accompaniment. Connectedness is what makes enterprises tick and enables people to work together towards a shared purpose. It is what creates and shapes markets, and what influences our attitudes and behaviors.

The days when brands could be built and markets created almost entirely through advertising in mass-media are over. Today people who share similar needs or wants can easily connect with each other by their own force, creating markets where they exchange information about any products or services available that can satisfy their needs or wants. They might even create the services or products themselves. One thing that is sure is that the impact and reach of personal recommendations and influence has never been stronger, and it has all to do with the reach, immediacy and multiplier effects now available through the social web. If people like a brand and its products or services, they might become advocates for that brand, influencing their friends and other people with similar needs or wants to buy the brand’s products or services. The brand becomes part of their social identities, which turns them into loyal and powerful band advocates if they are considered as influencers among their friends or communities.

What all this means is that most brands don’t create or even shape markets anymore. At best, they co-create their markets together with their customers. And the fundamental force behind these new market dynamics can be captured with one word: Connectedness.

In a world where things changed less frequently and when there was plenty of time to react on new information that emerged, where markets did not emerge by themselves and change shape by themselves, it was possible to centralize planning and make long-term detailed plans and execute the plans over a period of several years. Those days are also over, and businesses have to be prepared for the unexpected. They might still have an overall strategy and plan, but they need to be prepared to change it at any point in time and accept that the only feasible strategy they have to respond to change fast enough and good enough is to distribute the power of decision-making to everyone who might ever need to make a decision.

Informal networks have always been important, if not to say critical, for good decision-making in organizations. They have compensated for the lack of bandwidth and the slowness of formal information flows, the ones which typically follow the hierarchic reporting structure of organizations, by rapidly bringing new and more complete information to the awareness of decision-makers. Yet until recently the power to build and maintain informal networks were primarily possessed by those people within an organization who possessed formal positions in the hierarchy. Their positions allowed them to allocate the time and resources to build their informal networks. Anyone who had a strong informal network could influence decision-making, and informal networks were considered as something bad – especially if someone outside the hierarchy had strong informal networks.

Today informal networks are increasingly considered as an organizational asset, especially if they become visible and if more people are given the chance to develop them. The social web and enterprise social software allows empowers people to connect and build their own networks. This means they can more easily get access to the information needed making the right decisions themselves, right there in the situation where they are need to make a decision. As more people are empowered to do this, the enterprise becomes more agile and responsive, increasing its chances of surviving and thriving in a global, connected and rapidly changing business landscape. So if there is any art the modern enterprise needs to learn and master, it is the art of Connectedness.