Archilochus, 700 BC
Archilochus, 700 BC
I became connected with Philip Sheldrake in just the past few months, though Responsive.org, a group exploring new ways of work somewhat like the Future of Work community I have been developing. I thought Philip a perfect subject for a Socialogy interview.
About Philip Sheldrake
Philip is a well-known consultant, author and speaker. He is a Chartered Engineer and a main board director of techUK, the UK trade association for the technology industry. Prior to Euler Partners, Philip built and sold an award-winning public relations consultancy.
Philip has combined his industrial engineering experience at Mars and Perkins (Caterpillar), his information technology expertise, and his knowledge of public relations best practice to develop the Influence Scorecard, a framework for social business introduced in his book, The Business of Influence: Reframing Marketing and PR for the Digital Age(Wiley, 2011).
Philip’s latest ebook, Attenzi – a social business story, was published in May 2013 with a foreword by Microsoft Yammer co-founder and CTO, Adam Pisoni.
Stowe Boyd: In a recent post (see Our goal is to become a social business but how do we get the revolution started?) you back away from a contact’s question about needing a revolution to get his company to become more social. First, you looked at the conclusion that the answer to his business’ circumstance was to become social, and instead suggested an examination of shared values. But aren’t many businesses considering a digital/social transformation in the pursuit of another round of productivity, rather than soul searching about meaning and purpose?To me, social business demands we build mutual understanding to develop mutual influence (thinking and behaviors) to create mutual value. And such mutuality is founded on identifying, nurturing and celebrating mutual values. - Philip Sheldrake
Philip Sheldrake: My first point emphasizes that social business is a means not an ends of itself. A delightful means. A rewarding means. A welcome means. But a means nonetheless. You may well argue that the corresponding values and principles could represent an endgame for how you’d like society to be, but from the perspective of the business man I was talking to, and indeed all of my clients, the success of that business is foremost in his mind.
And what a loaded word that is – success. It seems, particularly in the light of recent calamitous events, that more than a few people are searching for a post-capitalist reality, one that at least recognizes and attempts to make up for some of the serious flaws in free-wheeling market economies. Articulating what success looks like exactly in terms of a country or an organization or other community has exercised greater minds than mine, but I simply talk to creating value for all stakeholders faster than otherwise, and value in its fullest meaning. In words a card-carrying capitalist might recognize, we’re talking about shareholders benefiting greatly because other stakeholders benefit greatly too; a win-win rather than a win-lose.
Interestingly, placing any one stakeholder on a pedestal is stupid period. It’s not just the primacy of the shareholder that’s in question, but the concept of customer-centricity too, as I explore in Attenzi - a social business story.
So to your question about the motivations for investigating and pursuing social business.
I couldn’t agree more with your intimation that the landscape appears polarized. Perhaps the majority (from observation rather than empiricism) are intent on little more than “another round of productivity” as you put it, a euphemism for getting more done with fewer bodies. At best this may be wrapped up in maxims such as “work smarter not harder”, but it doesn’t address the meaning we all look for in our day-to-day existence, meaning that propels us to build relationships, form great teams, do awesome things, and then disperse when the time is right to re-form; meaning and belonging and contribution that creates more value for all involved faster than otherwise.
I don’t ascribe this failure to any kind of belligerence towards new thinking by the way, just the simple pressures of every day life keeping us in the same old groove.
To me, social business demands we build mutual understanding to develop mutual influence (thinking and behaviors) to create mutual value. And such mutuality is founded on identifying, nurturing and celebrating mutual values. The excellence model of public relations (Grunig et al) emphasizes mutual understanding to build goodwill, and it has informed much of my thinking including my extension of the model, the Six Influence Flows.
SB: What are the six influence flows?
PS: The excellence theory of public relations focuses on the two-way symmetrical model – using communication to negotiate with your publics, resolving conflict and promoting mutual understanding and respect between the organization and its stakeholders. The Six Influence Flows model prompts those interested in understanding how influence ‘goes around, comes around’ to look beyond the publics the excellence model proposes an organisation identifies for itself, and to look beyond communication as the sole means to influence and be influenced.
SB: In the second sidestep of your post, you decoded ‘revolution’ to mean a relatively fast transition to a new operating regime through evolution, not revolution. Isn’t that hair splitting? If there are some behaviors or practices that need to stop in order for progress to be made, that’s revolution not evolution.
PS: Ah semantics. I’m a sucker for definitions it has to be said; after all, if we’re invoking the same language to mean different things, that path to mutual understanding is going to have too many twists and turns.
So for the purposes of the post I take pains to define revolution and evolution in terms of flow. Revolution disrupts the flow of things. There is a disconnect, a decoupling. A revolution demands serious resource and momentum and is typically associated with increased risk for good reason.
Evolution on the other hand, whilst perhaps taking longer, aims to re-flow with less perceived risk. It identifies the mechanisms – the dials and levers – to twiddle and pull to coax the system from one state to another. It’s responsive in terms of agility (strategic) and flexibility (tactical). It’s both deliberate and emergent. And because people are inclined towards behaving as they are measured, I consider the organization’s existing business performance management system a good place to start even if such systems are contrary to some people’s expectations of social business practice. I think of it in terms of tapping the monster’s own strength, as I explain at greater length in a guest post to Brian Solis’ blog.
SB: That last point about ‘behaving as we are measured’ seems loaded. Aren’t the strongest motivations intrinsic? Our desire for autonomy and the trans-personal that Maslow hit on at the very end, the capacity to put the good of others before our own? While on one level the notion of influencing people to change behaviors through recognition and reward is almost trite, on another this almost smacks of coercion.Revolution disrupts the flow of things. There is a disconnect, a decoupling. A revolution demands serious resource and momentum and is typically associated with increased risk for good reason. Evolution on the other hand, whilst perhaps taking longer, aims to re-flow with less perceived risk. It identifies the mechanisms – the dials and levers – to twiddle and pull to coax the system from one state to another. It’s responsive in terms of agility (strategic) and flexibility (tactical). It’s both deliberate and emergent. - Philip Sheldrake
PS: I feel an affinity with the sentiment of your question Stowe, and interestingly Adam Pisoni, co-founder and CTO of Yammer, challenged me similarly when he penned the foreword to my ebook last year. I think the answer is reasonably straight forward, at least I hope it is – we have to deal with the nature of the beast as we find it. We must recognize that the typical organization today isn’t designed and doesn’t function with the kind of things you raise here in mind. Sure, there’s a book or three on the windowsill in HR talking about Maslow’s hierarchy and finding meaning in our work, but too rarely is much of it translated into the organizational fabric.
As I know you know, when considering the spectrum of deliberate and emergent strategy, today’s organizations are mostly up the deliberate end. And they have developed systems and process and checks and balances and culture designed to pursue that strategy and lock-in what the performance management system tells them is working. If we wish to inculcate change prior to there being competitive pressure to do so, that change must start from within by tapping into the only mechanisms available.
As for coercion, fortunately I’ve had no personal experience of that, but it has been made very clear what’s expected of me.
SB: The third question of a Socialogy interview always returns to this: what scientific discipline should we be looking to for a better grounding to business thinking?
PS: Oh crumbs. My post identifies engineering, public relations theory, psychology, sociology, linguistics and philosophy. But if I had to pick one, it would be the one that’s manifest in nearly everything our species is interested in right now, yet too frequently under-appreciated or misunderstood – the science of complexity.
SB: Thanks for your time, Philip.
PS: Stowe, it’s my pleasure. Thank you.
This post was written as part of the IBM for Midsize Business program, which provides midsize businesses with the tools, expertise and solutions they need to become engines of a smarter planet. I’ve been compensated to contribute to this program, but the opinions expressed in this post are my own and don’t necessarily represent IBM’s positions, strategies or opinions.
Chris Dixon, Full stack startups
Thomas de Monchaux, Learning From Legos - NYTimes.com
I got access to Nuzzel today, and it is going to immediately join Flipboard as one of the few apps I religiously use everyday to make sense of my Twitter flow. Nuzzel cross-tabulates my incoming stream of tweets, and yields the stories that a whole bunch of my scene are talking about in Twitter. Nuzzel is the best social news feed I’ve seen, to date.
This is a much better realization of what I have been using Flipboard to do for me with my Twitter feed there. This aggregates dozens of tweets about a hot story — like Jennifer Bell’s Journalism startups aren’t a revolution if they’re filled with all these white men — and allows me to wander through aggregation from my friends — those who I follow directly — and from my friends of friends — which truly is my social scene. (I’m betting that swarm is something like a few hundred thousand to a million people, based on each of the 1500 folks I follow following a few hundred people each.)
Nuzzel also suggests stories I might have missed, and keeps track of what i have read — just that last feature along is a product I need regularly.
Check out my public Nuzzel feed at nuzzel.com/stoweboyd.
That rise in transit ridership outpaced a 20 percent growth in population and a 23 percent increase in vehicle miles traveled over the same time period.
The future of transport is obvious, but our governments continue to overinvest in highways, because of overestimates of highway use by the US DOT:
David Brooks is a strange combination of insight and ideology. He is a conservative at the core, and as a result his occasional epiphanies regarding the social nature of human life, society, and culture wind up in strange territory, like a fox with its head caught in a cookie jar.
This newest episode has Brooks summarizing a recent Pew Research Center survey (which he didn’t link to), which shows that Americans believe — for the first time ever — that the US is having a declining influence on what’s going on worldwide, although they are not advocating isolationism, but instead a deeper integration in the world.
This contemporary, postnormal worldview seems like a dilemma requiring resolution to him. He contrasts it with the false certainties of the postmodern — where his feet are still firmly planted — and then scratches his head in wonder:
David Brooks, The Leaderless Doctrine
These shifts are not just a result of post-Iraq disillusionment, or anything the Obama administration has done. The shift in foreign policy values is a byproduct of a deeper and broader cultural shift.
The veterans of World War II returned to civilian life with a basic faith in big units — big armies, corporations and unions. They tended to embrace a hierarchical leadership style.
The Cold War was a competition between clearly defined nation-states.
Commanding American leaders created a liberal international order. They preserved that order with fleets that roamed the seas, armies stationed around the world and diplomatic skill.
Over the ensuing decades, that faith in big units has eroded — in all spheres of life. Management hierarchies have been flattened. Today people are more likely to believe that history is driven by people gathering in the squares and not from the top down. The liberal order is not a single system organized and defended by American military strength; it’s a spontaneous network of direct people-to-people contacts, flowing along the arteries of the Internet.
The real power in the world is not military or political. It is the power of individuals to withdraw their consent. In an age of global markets and global media, the power of the state and the tank, it is thought, can pale before the power of the swarms of individuals.This is global affairs with the head chopped off. Political leaders are not at the forefront of history; real power is in the swarm. The ensuing doctrine is certainly not Reaganism — the belief that America should use its power to defeat tyranny and promote democracy. It’s not Kantian, or a belief that the world should be governed by international law. It’s not even realism — the belief that diplomats should play elaborate chess games to balance power and advance national interest. It’s a radical belief that the nature of power — where it comes from and how it can be used — has fundamentally shifted, and the people in the big offices just don’t get it.
That’s the Brooks insight. Yes, we believe that the people in the big offices don’t get it. We are past Reaganism, and Realpolitik: we don’t trust the players that want to play those games. The ideal of a unified International community ruled by law — a la United Nations, or, in the small, in a united Europe — has fallen short, and those organizations are themselves the dreams of the last half of the 20th Century. We look at today’s world order — architected by those ideals — with a resigned sense of profound worldweariness. The defining emotion of our time is weltschmerz, not the nostalgia of the postmodern.
We aren’t waiting for a Jack Kennedy or an Eisenhower to stare down Putin. We know they are all involved in a game of thrones, and we are just pawns, and the world is the spoils.
Brooks, the fox, then gets trapped in the past, and seeks to delegitimize a postnormal rejection of statism and neoliberal globalism:
It’s frankly naïve to believe that the world’s problems can be conquered through conflict-free cooperation and that the menaces to civilization, whether in the form of Putin or Iran, can be simply not faced. It’s the utopian belief that politics and conflict are optional.
Again, postmodern values always lead to postmodern conclusions. Here Brooks calls those that reject the present day system ‘naïve’ and ‘utopian’. Personally, I consider the postnormal worldview to be protopian: I hope to be able to make the world slightly better. And the primary path of that is dismantling the worst aspects of the postmodern, which has been thrown into our hands like a ticking bomb.
Globalist political conflict and neoliberal financial markets have been brandished as the primary means of ensuring a world order for the past century and more, with decidedly mixed outcomes. Just look at the state of the world today: global warming, conflict and revolution everywhere, sectarian terrorism, genocidal policies, end-of-days religious bigotry, worldwide ineqaulity, and with power concentrated in the hands of the few to the detriment of the many. Is it any surprise that, at long last, we have come to a new appreciation of all systems where we, the people, are led by a powerful elite?
We live in a country in which many people act as if history is leaderless. Events emerge spontaneously from the ground up. Such a society is very hard to lead and summon. It can be governed only by someone who arouses intense moral loyalty, and even that may be fleeting.
On the contrary, history is the tale told by the victorious leaders of past conflicts. It is the future that we hope will be leaderless, where we can harness the technologies of the postnormal to bypass leaders and enact direct democracy based on truly human, local, and global principles of equality.
Brooks, of course, sees only a void at the heart of the swarm, and the destruction of the institutions he believes are needed; where I see a multitude connecting to make a new world order, one that does without leaders trying to get us to march off to war or over a cliff, but instead displaces top-down organization with bottom-up association.
Brooks ends almost spuming in despair, while I find in this growing American rejection of the principles of the postmodern a reason for hope, a new pole star to steer by.
This is one reason that I am promoting leanership as the alternative to leader-focused organizations. The book I am writing — Leanership: A New Way of Work — explores these principles within the business context, but the logical outgrowth is the reworking of our institutions — including governments — to adopt the premises of postnormal economy and culture.