This is a story about reciprocity. I work with organizations and their leaders to help them understand digital transformation invariably answering questions like 'why should I use Twitter' 'should I be on Facebook' 'how can I protect my business model in the face of all this disruption'. But I think these questions miss the point. This is not about technology or channels, this is about what you can do to future proof your relevance. And to that I would simply say, forget about catching up it is way too late for that. Now is the time to leapfrog.
Because if you want to future proof your organization or yourself as a leader then you would be better off spending time understanding how human behaviour has evolved alongside or because of the web and leave worrying about the machine to your technologists.
When I worked for GDS part of my role involved helping Civil Servants to engage with social media and during that time I was lucky enough to have @thorpesque as a colleague. He was on a year long secondment from Sapient Nitro and was exploring ways of making policy making at central government more collaborative so we overlapped a lot in discussion and debate mostly around the nature of networks and behaviours.
One really influential piece that I came across during that time was We The Web Kids by the Polish writer Piotr Czerski which brilliantly sets out the differences between the analog and digital generation. These differences are profound in my view and are not just about attitudes and behaviour but are a blueprint for savvy companies to future proof themselves from irrelevance.
I have used the piece as a script interspersed with slides when giving leadership talks over the past year but I always yearned for it to be presented in a way that better represented Piotr’s intent. So recently @thorpesque sent me a DM on Twitter saying, 'got a mate who needs some advice' with an introduction to @christoi who is the CEO of Innovation Arts. And of course because I trust the network I was happy to meet and chat. Several lunches and coffees later @christoi asked me if there was something he could do for me in return and I mused about We The Web Kids and how I would love to see it creatively visualized. His response? 'I can sort that' and a few weeks later his brilliant creative team headed by Art Director Eddie Jacob and Designer @AbbieBurch created this wonderful piece of work (full version on Prezi.com)
No money changed hands but time was expended, time and love and artistry, and this is the thing that underpins for me the difference between analogue and digital the emergence of the reciprocal mindset. Though I work as a consultant and charge for my time my network is so valuable to me I will work for nothing and share and help when I feel those values are shared and understood in return. Innovation Arts set about visualizing a manifesto that has as one of its tenets something I really believe
“Our competition, our desire to be different is built on knowledge, on the ability to process and interpret information, and not on monopolizing it”.
So through my relationship with @thorpesque, I got to meet @christoi and through that connection something came into being that brilliantly amplifies the work of Piotr Czerski which in turn might help organisations and leaders understand the challenge they face. Because if you really want to get ahead you need to get what We The Web Kids believe;
“Society is a network not a hierarchy. We are used to being able to start a dialogue with anyone be it professor or pop star. And the success of the interaction depends solely on whether the content of our message will be regarded as important and worthy of a reply”.
Organizations and leaders would do well to understand the mindset of this audience in the first instance and start building digital services to meet their expectations. What tools and channels will do that best are not the issue – the issue is this is not their parents web, it is theirs. Build for it.