February 21, 2010

Zealot Advice

Posted in Life, Uncategorized tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , at 3:56 pm by lindaslongview

I connected more than usual to Seth’s post from yesterday, Moving the line (the power of a zealot).  He taps into the conundrum of the community that I exist within, where there is angry division over standards of behavior.  Seth correctly observes, “It’s not the principle, in fact, it’s just the degree of compromise we’re comfortable with and content to argue over.” He’s absolutely right!

One of the real challenges is that communities have changed over time and do not respond to the same stimulus and admonitions they used to.  We now live in the world of the long tail (many niches), having shifted more and more toward autonomy.  As such, individuals expect more fidelity and tolerance for their personal needs/desires than ever before.  This requires that communities be more articulate and transparent about what they represent.

I addressed the shift from community to autonomy in my post One Book, Two Months, discussing Putnam’s seminal book, Bowling Alone, and noted that our ability to choose our affiliations is very positive and welcome — we are no longer forced/trapped by ‘tradition’ and/or whatever you were raised.  This has meant that community organizations must create compelling reasons for affiliation. And with greater choices, people change affiliations based on whether their needs (autonomy) are being met.

It is no longer sufficient to be an organization that met the needs of past customers to be successful in the future. Every organization must become customer-centric to the currently affiliated (and those they desire to attract). Customer-centric means that when people talk about their experiences they RAVE about how well they were treated, how much they liked the staff and community, and how easy it was to accomplish the ‘why’ of their affiliation.

Organizations must therefore solicit feedback, measure performance, and adapt accordingly (compromise, coexist, and tolerate diversity for mutual benefit). Per Putnam, this must be part of building mechanisms with the tools of our technological age. To survive, organizations need to rise above where they have been, creating accessible guidance and embracing scalable personalization.

Lastly, the shift toward autonomy has intensified long view imperatives for zealots (and the leadership managing the zealots) within diverse communities:

  • Zealots need to understand that they are successful when they “move the goalposts” (and not expect to hold out for their ideal if they are a minority).
  • Zealots must legitimate the needs of the non-zealots enabling a customer-centric environment (tolerate diversity) to create (more and more) reciprocity, trust, and mutual aid (if they desire to participate within a given community).

Without acknowledging and adjusting to the realities of the shift toward autonomy, some communities are likely to sustain more and more disaffiliation leading to extinction.

Is your community harnessing the tools of the technological age to create coexistence, accessible guidance, and scalable personalization?

May 5, 2009

One Book, Two Months

Posted in Business, Life, Technology tagged , , , , , , , , , , , at 12:00 am by lindaslongview

bowlingaloneI am a voracious reader; typically I read a few books a month. I started Robert Putnam’s “Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community” on 03/06/2009 (the day I checked it out from the library). I renewed it once and then ordered it from Amazon when I realized that I wouldn’t finish before I had to renew it yet again.

My long view journey with this book began with the question: “What to change in the workplace and in the community to increase collaboration and to reduce feelings of isolation?” This question arose from my observation that the world is changing as a result of our adoption of technology (this is a good thing), yet it affects both workplace and civic communities in ways that make it harder in many cases to be effective because of concomitant rising expectations.

My key observation was that each of us has many demands on our time (more and more), making it harder and harder to get people to collaborate (workplace) and/or connect (civic) face-to-face (the old way) because we need lower transaction costs to do more and remain effective. The good news is that technology is lowering transaction costs everywhere – Clay Shirky in “Here Comes Everybody: The Power of Organizing without Organizations” makes the point very effectively (if you don’t want to read this book, let Steve read it for you). As lowered transaction costs permeate our lives, we begin to shy from activities that exceed a certain threshold of time (or effort) because we require reduced transaction costs everywhere (lowered tide lowers all boats) in order to participate.

Weighing in at only 414 pages, “Bowling Alone” was a dense and demanding read — chock full of statistics and data of all sorts. It required slow absorption, but I learned much!

On page 335, I hit resonance. Putnam summarizes that many of us in modern society feel down because we have a stronger investment in our own autonomy than commitment to duty and common enterprise, thus leaving us unprepared to deal with the inevitable setbacks, losses, and outright failures that are part and parcel of commercializing emerging technology or just living life! In prior eras, the commitment to duty and common enterprise was stronger than personal achievement (flipped balance), enabling a stronger network of family and friends (social capital) to be available to cushion our dips.

Although the shift from community to autonomy created a reversal in the strength of our personal connections, it was accompanied by the strong positives of greater diversity and tolerance (gender, race, religion, orientation). Thus, I celebrate the era of self-determination, meritocracy, and achievement through perseverance; yet as a leader (workplace and community), I look for guidance as to how best to ignite greater connection (social capital) in our transformed world.   I desire self-determinant workplaces and communities that create much more needed human camaraderie to re-balance toward the common good.

Putnam’s guidance is sparse, but positive.  He does not tell us what to do, but gives us direction for solution: we must build mechanisms with our new tools (reduced transaction costs) to create (more and more) reciprocity, trust, and mutual aid. Putnam makes the point that during the Progressive Era (following rapid industrialization), reformers of social capital then were activist, optimistic, and hugely successful by using the new tools of their era.

How best to accomplish this mission?!  Do you have ideas?