Hosted in the elegant and inspiring New York City Center, 2012’s World Innovation Forum offered an invigorating array of content. It ranged from social sustainability and the power of video games to predictions of the human life span and technological advancement. Among the two days of mind-bending facts, figures, and theories, two speakers offered succinct and articulate focus on an overwhelmingly simple premise: collaboration. Clay Shirky and Russell Stevens leveraged their experience with social media and marketing movements to outline how collaborative efforts can benefit organizations.
“Group action just got easier,” says author and NYU professor, Clay Shirky. In response to the Internet, social media, and the current speed in which we can all connect, Shirky sees a blue sky of opportunity. Never before has humanity had access to such expansive communal outlets to express concerns, help one another, and distribute information. The challenge is to develop systems that can leverage these tools toward innovation and problem solving. As Shirky says, “Social media is not just a tool for doing stuff the old way. They can solve new problems.” He went further, exclaiming that “Figuring out what kind of opportunities there are in this new landscape becomes part of the institutional prerogative.” He claims that organizations that can galvanize the power of the community will excel in unprecedented ways.
Interestingly, inviting the masses to the table has yet to be mastered. As Shirky points out with his research, 100 million hours went into the development of Wikipedia, which is merely equivalent to the number of hours the US watches advertisements over the weekend. People are hopping online, engaging and convening like never before, but we have yet to fully capitalize on the possibilities. What if more time was dedicated to interacting in intellectually and socially positive ways? What problems could be solved if 200 million hours of time were directed at solutions in a collaborative and communal space?
Framing theory with practice, Russell Stevens, partner of the mega-innovative marketing firm SS+K, spoke of his experience creating message movements. Citing his experience with projects that have ranged from the 2008 Obama campaign to LIVESTRONG, Stevens outlined the new rules of customer engagement in a hyper-connected age. In today’s world of customer interaction and communication, organizations are better for operating with an inclusive model. Stevens suggests that customers are engaged through a process of “Provoke – Connect – Share – Own”. By provoking people through passion points, organizations can then connect through interaction. As discussion continues, customers and constituents should be seen as mouthpieces for the movement and encouraged to be spokespeople. Finally, the people who take part in the movement should be rewarded for their part in its success. Let clients and constituents own a piece of the pie while acknowledging their participation and achievements.
Both Stevens and Shirky outline a world of expanding inclusion and empowering engagement. By leveraging the enthusiasm of others to be collaborate, organizations can benefit their customers and themselves. In this mutually beneficial model, organizations are smart to think toward the future, and ask how problems and challenges can be overcome by utilizing the ideas and energy of a collaborative public.
Dan Leidl is a regular contributor to The Washington Post’s On Leadership section. Dan is a managing partner of Meno Consulting and co-author of the forthcoming book, Team Turnarounds to be published in July of 2012 by Jossey-Bass. Connect with them on Facebook and Twitter.