Brain Solis and the C-Level FailureWhen someone with more grey cells than me proclaims the death of "social business" the post is worth a read (or two or three). I love this Brian Solis paragraph:
It’s not that the ideas are losing or that the goals are without merit, they are. The problem is that the deeper meaning and richer context is being lost on executives who still think the word “social” indicates a frivolous time-wasting pursuit. To them, it’s about what someone ate for lunch. Or it’s that thing their teenagers do to ignore them at the dinner table. Despite the Arab Spring, the customer revolution and an increasingly connected society which turns to Twitter with every earthquake or news event, the idea of being a Social Business has failed to break through the care barrier in most C-Suites.In 30 years I've worked for and sold to C-level executives almost exclusively since my twenties. I am the pesky "teenager" in Brian's quote. In 1984 I purchased a PC with money I didn't have, a 640K IBM dual disk drive monochrome monitor PC with Lotus 1-2-3 costing $5,000.
I bring this memory up because use of computers was seen as a "frivolous time-wasting pursuit". Turns out I don't mind having my life so wasted. I learned early on the technology wasn't as important as the CHANGE it created in me.
I haven't attained a C-level position so one could read my life as FAILURE. I'm a cancer survivor and having the Big C teaches many lessons. LIVE what you LOVE is perhaps the most important cancer survivor lesson. You don't always make the most money living what you love and doing it with those you love. You don't always attain the C-suite, but those C-level dreams feel OLD and boring.
The idea that a C-level executive has some secret beans that I too must have or my life is failure and miserable failure is absurd. The average tenure of a CMO is two years so apparently they aren't trusted as far as they can be thrown (lol).
So let's agree with Brian that C-level executives are true to form and will be the laggards in our three act social business play. Here is Solis again:
Indeed, as I have heard from executives in charge of billion dollar lines of business, they “have people for that”. They have yet to see the bigger opportunity to seize competitive advantage or the risk to their business. It’s as if they were frogs being put into a pot of cold water being slowly brought to a boil. It’s not so painful that they need to make a massive investment to transform their organizations. They continue to make money and operate as they always have. That is the problem. The old model of organizational design and profit making is obsolete but it hasn’t yet completely or visibly failed for the people in charge.This Solis quote reinforces the technological revolutionary (me) as administrative assistant in a world made FLAT by C-level myopia. Here is the other thing I learned about C-level executives. C-levels change when they get fired and never much before. Their conditioning is so complete change risks all. Their core stays "steady on" no matter.
I remember being a young revolutionary at M&M/Mars (I was in my late twenties and so very full of beans and dangerous as only youth can be :). Red in the face I explained the coming digital revolution within 20% of where we ended up. I also outlined how poorly we (M&M's) were set up to take advantage of the winds of change. "And what exactly do you want me to do," came the clearly angry response from the VP Sales. I was as a loss. It seemed so clear right up until he said that (lol).
Change of the magnitude we were discussing forces its presence like water on a stone. My visualization of the digital revolution was much FASTER, more VIOLENT and more BOLD something I realize all these years later can be put down to youth's rose colored revolutionary glasses - the ones that make everything seem faster, bigger and more dramatic (lol).
That our "social business revolution" would go drip, drip, drip instead of FLOOD is disappointing. Nothing like a good flood to clean away yesterday's BS, but Solis hits on another problem and that problem is US.
Why haven't we consumers risen up and demanded our social due?
It is not sloth or lethargy that prevents us from donning beret and arming with social Molotov cocktails, but our dependence on THEM. A moment ago life was controlled by THEMs. We watched what THEY programmed, listened to what THEY played and purchased the official revolutionary garb THEY sold despite the absurdity of "official revolutionary garb". We revolted in defined and acceptable ways. We were more revolting than real revolutionaries. Solis again:
Being an eBusiness was simply about getting online to sell your stuff – if you didn’t do it, you were going to lose your position in the market. Social Business is about being more social, more connected, more human and so much more. By being more connected and transparent, we increase the flow of information inside and across the organization. By being more authentic and empathetic, we can increase trust with our peers and our clients. For the acolytes, becoming a social business is about the future of business, and how great everything could be if we fixed what’s wrong with the status quo. For others, who don’t have a clear view of what a successful Social Business looks like, its just another management fad with which they can’t be bothered with beyond the marketing department.This Solis quote is right and wrong. It is RIGHT about THEM and wrong about US. The implication is THEY (C-level executives) can determine social business will be "just another management fad" and Solis is right BECAUSE of us. Not the US of my fellow Internet marketers but the collective proletariat us.
We haven't woken all the way UP yet.
America's promise is work hard and the democracy of our meritocracy will out. Problem is truth is our contemporary truth is much messier. Truth is we've been incubated Matrix-like for a long time. We read Seth Godin and then want to work for IBM. There is no IBM anymore Godin proclaims yet a generation continues to see such false idols as worthy of their life's greatest treasure - their TIME.
We imagine and dream the revolution more than we live it.
RIGHT THIS MINUTE I've bet my life savings on the revolution. I am here to tell you placing such a bet is SCARY and HARD (lol). I'm also here to share another red faced prediction - our technical social lives are rapidly becoming more powerful than any life controlled by gatekeepers.
What is a C-level executive if not a gatekeeper.
Great C-level executives, and I've known several including J. Langdon at M&M's and Mary Kay O'Connor at Nutrasweet, have three jobs: the vision thing, coaching their team to understand the vision thing and gate keeping the P&L and corporate ROI.
I AGREE with Brian's assertion. Our "social business" revolution is currently hung up on a rock. He hints at OUR (the royal we) complicity. I agree with the idea of our complicity most of all. Were Brian and I divulge is in the inevitability of the drip, drip, drip of change. The social water will erode C-level stones just as the digital water rushed up and got us here.
That money and profits can still be made in the old way is no surprise. But count the devastation:
- Market creation via push advertising is all but over.
- Gatekeepers aren't GONE but their strangle hold is loosening.
- Since the hypnotic stare of ever MORE media is over, some authenticity is creeping in.
- Authenticity spreads like a virus.
- Once authenticity is created it is hard to take back or return to saccharin.
- The MAN may still control the means of production, but he is more scared than ever.
Each day's social media's drip, drip, drip erodes the rock a tad. Will we ever create the social business we saw so well a few years back? Probably not if past is any indicator of future. We build sand castles on the beach and the tide always comes in. Our social media tides feel increasingly right, true and authentic.
What's next? More drip, drip, drip as stone gives up surface and soul to river and the distance between each other shrinks. We will try on our ability to be gatekeepers of our lives. We may still work for the man, but he is less HIM and more US every darn social day.
Great post Brian. Thanks.