Struggling with social? Stop sweating the tech

So many execs I meet are bewildered by digital, social, all things funky new tech and 21st century. More specifically, they’re bewildered by their lack of understanding of ‘this new world’. The dark art.

The thing is, we’re missing the point. There is no need for everybody to embrace all cool new tools. In fact, trying to do so would tie many up in knots and totally waste their time. CEOs should not fret about Facebook likes.

The explosive boom in available tools has only just begun. There’s exponential growth in technology; and it shows no signs of slowing. Barriers to creating new tools are being torn down every day. We have more building blocks for making more apps, with less technical skill required, all the time. So instead of drowning in fear of being left behind – and jumping on misguided bandwagons, freaking out that you might not have the lingo or don’t ‘get it’… just accept that there’s an exponential, endless explosion of new stuff; and that’s the way it’s going to be now, forever. Get over it.

Now that’s out the way, we’re left with what really matters. Now we’ve accepted technology is here to stay – and there will be infinite new tools all the time, well beyond Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and the rest of today’s tools (tomorrow if might be something else) – we can focus on a couple of basics; the important stuff:

1) If you’re not a geek, a cool tech dude, or are secretly wondering why the hell anyone would share anything on a social network… how are you going to ensure your organisation benefits from embracing tools that could help your business save money or make money?

2) What are the fundamental implications of people being able to connect with people and people being able to connect with information – easily, cheaply, in real time? How does that impact what customers expect? How we serve them? How we learn? How people behave? How organisations are structured? How we lead? How the economy works? How markets shift? How our brains develop? How we manage supply chains? How we develop products? How we manage risk? How we get work done?

The answer to 1) is simple. Stop worrying – and find your skunkworks. Every sizeable organisation – and loads of small ones too – will have some geeks, innovators and folks who like looking at new things. The path of least resistance is to find the people who gravitate towards technology and support them in exploring the latest tech capabilities. Give them visible support – maybe a room, a whiteboard, whatever. Celebrate them. Your skunkworks can worry about identifying, road testing and understanding cool new tools; then bring you potential solutions to problems when they find them.

The answer to 2) requires you to think. That’s where you should invest your time, your effort. That’s where you should stretch your imagination, that’s why you should stay up all night learning. That’s where you should puzzle, fret, wonder, practice, research, test, explore, discover and deploy your brain power… not trying to work out how to Twitter the Hashflag those interns were on about in that meeting earlier.

Technology will change all by itself. It’s people who take ages to change. It’s people who are difficult and complex. That’s where the challenge really lies. You can be open to change, open to innovation and eager to embrace the 21st century, without playing on Pinterest or posting questions on Quora. Don’t sweat the tools if that’s not your thing, sweat the big human world stuff. Technology is just the enabler. First you have to know what you’re trying to do and why.

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