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Is How We Communicate as a Business and a Community Changing? Part II

April 7, 2011 - Ernest Hohmeyer
Information and how it is used is becoming more important when discussing small businesses or life in rural communities.

In making a comparison between the invention of the printing press and the internet, Don Tapscott and Anthony Williams in their new book, Macrowikinomics: Rebooting Business and the World, write:

“Printing gave humanity the written word. The Web makes everyone a publisher. Printing enabled distribution of knowledge. The Web provides a platform for networking human minds. Printing allowed people to know. The Web enables people to collaborate and to learn collectively. Printing played a key role in the rise of the industrial revolution and the creation of capitalism. The Web is now enabling new models for creating wealth and prosperity on a global basis. However, the biggest differences between the printing press and the Internet is that what took four centuries to unfold then is occurring in as little as four decades today.”

The book outlines “5 principles for the age of networked intelligence” and it takes a hard look at many of the practices we have used in some cases for centuries. Here are a few highlights:

• Collaboration – is not about only working with your own employees as “team members.” Collaboration is now about reaching outside the business structure to work world-wide to get things done. The idea is that there is more power to increase your diversity of talent and resources from marketing to solving problems.

A successful business (or community) leader skill set of “collaborative innovation… [is] as important as budgeting…and planning.”

• Openness – In order to effectively collaborate, business and institutions are moving away from the age of old tradition of holding information as a weapon. While recognizing the need for proprietary information and other cases to hold information, at least the attitude is changing about information, perhaps in part because it so hard to keep anything a secret now days. However, information or openness is becoming a “new competitive force and an essential precondition for building productive relationships with potential collaborators.” In other words, giving out information and not hoarding it is a tool to prove earnest collaboration.

• Integrity – You can find out about anyone or just about anything now days and whether it is by necessity or a new “bottom-line” that companies are favoring, “integrity” is becoming a tool to gain collaborators. This is also becoming true for community organizations that need to combine the values of “honesty, consideration and accountability – together with transparency [as] the foundation of trust and integrity.”

• Interdependence - Tapscott and Williams point to the real estate financial crisis as an example of how we are living in an interdependent world. Recently, we need only to look at the crisis of small countries in the Middle East or how an earthquake in Japan can affect factories, prices and world markets. Global warming and how various populations from around the world are now seeing how others live and therefore want the same quality of life, are other examples of a world becoming connected globally.

There are great examples in the book of how rapidly things are changing and that some of these are happening over the resistance of many institutions:

• An astronomer who is “mapping the universe with the help of 250,000 ‘citizen scientists.”

• A “micro lending community where 570,000 individuals help fund new ventures – from Angola to Vietnam.”

• We are going away from being consumers of energy to “prosumers” built on an “eco-system” of “household producers” utilizing new software that allows you to personalize your energy usage and even sell back to the grid. The image of large utility companies operating the grid from one source will change the authors argue to an “open-source grid” where we as individuals will be supplying excess energy we produce. Google is cited with their new “Power-meter” that is used already by “8.3 million homes in the U.S.”

• HuffPo – an on-line newspaper “read by more than 20 million people per month and growing at a rate of 50% a year.” But this is not the startling thing: it represents a new form of looking at the news that is increasingly interactive. Its staff “relies on more than 3,000 contributors.” It has another 12,000 “citizen journalists” and relies on its readership to “produce much of the HuffPo’s content to the tune of over 2 million contributions each month.” What is news is “no longer a passive relationship of news handed down but ‘a shared enterprise between its producer and consumer.” It’s a new world of participatory news. As this happens there are questions as to the quality and accuracy of reporting.

• Faster and shorter communications – Twitter “now boasts over 13 billion entries. 2.5 billion photos are added to Facebook monthly and YouTube serves over a billion videos every day – meaning that the majority of ‘television shows’ and ‘movies’ watched are now less than 5 minutes long.” The rate and the number of communications are increasing while time spent on any particular message is decreasing. What does that mean to marketing your community or business?

• Traditional support to community charities or organizations is also changing. Instead of a donation, a new form of “engagement” based on involvement is taking place. Now, your expertise is “infinitely portable” due to the internet and you can be part of “networked problem solving” as many have “time scarcity” issues and less money to give. One example given is the “Extraordinaries” which is a “micro-volunteering platform that allows supporters to use their mobile phone to transform their spare time into social action.”

• Community Issues – the usual method is to bring people together and in some cases to hire facilitators. They assess the issues, develop solutions and help to implement it. The authors argue that it may be more effective to become a “curator” that creates an environment that “allows other people to self organize and create things that are valuable, both for you and for them. If your build a web site don’t simply load it up with static content. Instead create the framework and tools for others to create their own content and build communities. Community organizations can be platforms for value creation.”

It’s a rapidly changing world with new opportunities and issues. The culling of the powerful weapon known as information is becoming so sophisticated that advertisers may know more about your habits than you do. Marketing is becoming so personable and intrusive it is creating concern.

The April issue of PCWorld talks about how Firefox is working on a “feature that will allow users to opt out of online behavioral advertising.” This according to the article follows a U.S. Department of Commerce report that “called for both the creation of an on-line privacy bill of rights and an enforceable code of conduct for Internet companies that handle consumer data and track Web users.”

Even sustainability and recycling are old words.

In the April issue, Entrepreneur magazine talks about how re-cycling is “broken down into something of a lesser quality – a process that consumes energy.” A process called “upcycling” “adds value by transforming or reinventing an otherwise disposable item into something of higher quality.” One company cited is Looptworks that makes a laptop sleeve from leftover wet-suit material.

Sustainability is no longer the ultimate in being green. Sustainable farming, which allows the use of some chemicals, is being replaced in a growing number of instances by biodynamic agriculture that allows no artificial chemicals and takes into consideration unique, local and natural characteristics.

And it is not always about doing something new but looking at things differently. In the April issue of National Geographic the reliance “10,000 years ago” to plant annual “wheat, rice, corn and so on” necessitates the need for “large amounts of fertilizers” and that “leaving the ground bare after harvest and plowing…erodes the soil.” These and other factors are causing a new look at farming perennials.

Next week we will look at some of the ramifications concerning the use of information today and how it may be changing the way look at business, community and even ourselves.


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