The Three Cornerstones of Social Business

via @EskoKilpi

Three recent blogposts by Finnish management and digital media consultant Esko Kilpi explore what he calls the three ‘cornerstones’of social business: private broadcasting, pull communication and short path lengths with creative social curation. But what do these mean?

Private Broadcasting: Kilpi gives a sort of brief history of communication technologies since the invention of the telegraph, describing the two different modes of communication they enable, which were either person-to-person or public broadcasting. All the innovations that followed (the telephone, television, radio) followed this basic division. That is, of course, until the internet, social media, and the new model of communication that it offers, which combines elements of private conversation as well as public broadcasting, forming what Esko Kilpi calls ‘private broadcasting’. So what does that mean for social businesses and they way they communicate? Kilpi writes:

The mass society theories of marketing subscribed to the passive conception of the audience and public broadcasting. It is time now to subscribe to an active, responsive notion of the audience and the possibility for true interaction. The audience for this new form of communication are the emerging, active communities that the individual or the company wants to reach and connect with.

The public access that the Internet now allows people to have is mistakenly believed to mean trying to get the broadest possible audience. There has been a tremendous increase in the amount of material that is available to the public, not really intended for the public, but instead for the emerging conversations and communities, changing the way we learn and changing our sense of belonging.

Private broadcasting means a new way of connecting. It is successful if it creates a conversation and very successful if it helps to build a community.

Pull Communication: Communication is obviously an essential aspect of any business’ operations. However, traditional management has always viewed communication as influence or manipulation, as ways of getting the target customer or consumer to see the truth that management puts forth. The social business, however, “sees relations and communication as conversational processes of meaning making,” according to Kilpi. Social media naturally enables this meaningful communication to take place with greater ease, and in so doing, also disrupts the traditional relationships between ‘leaders’ and ‘followers’, as Kilpi writes:

When seen through the logic of social media, leading and following have a very different dynamic. Leading in this new social business sense is not position-based, but recognition-based. People, the followers, decide who to follow and what topics to follow. You pull information from someone you trust to be at the forefront in an area, which is temporally meaningful for you.

Another huge difference from traditional management thinking is that because of the diversity of contexts people link to, there can never be just one “leader” or one source of information. Thus, an individual always has many topics and people that she follows. You might even claim that from the point of view taken here, it is highly problematic if a person only has one leader. It would mean attention blindness as a default state.

Following and pull communication is at best a process of active, creative learning through observing and simulating desired practices. Leading on the other hand is doing one’s work in an open, inspiring and reflective way.

Short Path Lengths and Social Curation: According to Kilpi, new technologies give an organization the ability to reconfigure its form any way it desires, and allows it not to be confined by any one structure. “The mobile revolution has changed the logic of the network. The Internet is no longer about linked pages but connected purposes,” he writes.

For optimizing information the best structure for a social business would be a random network. A random network has the shortest possible number of links between any nodes. An example of this is performing a Google search. The key measure here is the path length. That indicates how far everybody is, on average. The path length measures how many steps a piece of information has to go through between people. To create short path lengths in a typical hierarchical or process based structure you would need to know almost everything and everybody included in the organization chart. You would need to have access to information that we typically don’t have in an organization of any size. Hierarchies and processes are thus not efficient ways to organize information in knowledge work. They are not transparent enough creating slowness and inefficiency. As a random network is not the easiest benchmark for an organization wanting to develop its information and communication related practices, another model has emerged to shorten the path lengths between people and information. It is social curation.

This creative curation of a network is one of most important functions of a social business, and increases the kind of impact it can have.

About Ayesha Vemuri

Ayesha Vemuri is responsible for thought leadership and outreach efforts at CKS. She has undergraduate degree in Visual Art from Reed College in Portland, Oregon, where she also studied such varied subjects as biology, literature and the humanities. At CKS, she is responsible for curating the Design Public blog, managing our various social media platforms, organizing Pecha Kucha Nights and contributing to the intellectual content of the Design Public Conclave and other CKS initiatives. Find her on twitter at @ayeshavemuri.
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