Intellectual Nudists are Key Criteria to Businesses’ Success with Social Media

December 14th, 2010 by Jennifer Dunphy

Intellectual Nudists are Key Criteria to Businesses’ Success with Social Media by TAG Community Guest Bloggers Jennifer Dunphy and Hal Schlenger

At our most recent gathering of TAG Enterprise 2.0, guest speaker Rhonda Lowry presented an intriguing notion on human adaptation to social media: Effective social intranet users are intellectual nudists.  Can they coexist with most of their “non-nudist” colleagues?

Let’s go back to the beginning of Rhonda’s observations and advice, working our way up to being good intellectual nudists.

While many people are hesitant to dive into the world wide social web beyond maybe a personal Facebook page or putting some pictures on a photosharing site, one needs to consider the loss of business.  Social media is not a fad; it’s become increasingly more important for companies and individuals to engage with prospects, current customers and employees.  We know one thing for certain:  current social media adopters and users will be the next to innovate the medium. This leading edge will directly impact their wallets in a positive way. Again, what is the cost of not participating? Marketplace change favors those who are in the connected world.

Your company’s adoption of social media can be compared to a starfish where survival comes from successful decentralizing. In her referencing the book, “The Starfish and The Spider,” Rhonda explained how spiders and starfish may have similar biological parts yet starfish have a miraculous quality. Cut off the leg of a spider, and you have a seven-legged arachnid on your hands; cut off its head and you have a dead spider. But cut off the arm of a starfish and it will grow a new one. Not only that, but the severed arm can grow an entirely new body. Starfish can achieve this feat because, unlike spiders (and most businesses), they are decentralized; every major organ is replicated across each (decentralized) arm.

Starfish and spiders don’t just exist in the animal kingdom. Such organizations exist in the business world, and are changing the rules of strategy and competition. And social media has changed the rules for the world of marketing. Spider organizations are centralized and have clear organs and structure. You know who is in charge. You see them coming.

Starfish organizations, on the other hand, are based on a completely different set of principles. They tend to organize around a shared ideology  – around ideologies like iPhone app developer or al Qaeda. They arise rapidly around the simplest ideas. Ideas or platforms that can be easily duplicated much like social media. Once they arrive, they can be massively disruptive and are here to stay, for good or bad. And the social Internet only helps them flourish.

Who’s In Control

Social media has removed centralized control because there are now a vast number of writers, contributors and videographers who all have methods of distribution in contrast to past decades when the broadcast license holders and printers controlled the key distribution assets.   If you continue operating with the central control (the spider’s head), you will die, or at best, painfully limp along.   The solution is the starfish, and to be a starfish, you need to give up certain controls. 

There are many different points of view when it comes to social media and each is impacted by how much control you are willing to give up: what will be the benefit for using it, how to use it and who should use it.  As you begin to answer these questions, you’ll discover two commonalities

  1. Collaboration. As Rhonda put it, collaboration needs to be a common goal and shared values, not just talking & listening.   
  2. As  the words implies, “NetWORKing” is work. It takes time and work to build your credibility in your online social communities, or as Rhonda put it, to amass your  “social currency”, often referred to as “social capital”. The bigger question is, can you evolve? Rhonda presented a great analogy that highlighted Apple’s evolution  and the understanding of evolving or becoming irrelevant.

You succeed by listening, collaborating, NetWORKing, and giving up some control in exchange for social currency.  As your control is removed, and your thinking and beliefs  exposed, you become recognized as an intellectual nudist.  And artist know, the nude is an ideal form.

So in today’s world, starfish are gaining the upper hand in social media and in the business world.  Can your leadership move up to this level while co-existing with non-nudist followers (who hopefully include your competitors)?

Note:  Please join the Enterprise 2.0 society’s 2011 events that will help you “adapt to the adoption” of social, such as becoming a starfish and intellectual nudist.

Article written by Jennifer Dunphy and Hal Schlenger

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