There’s a pretty big revolution going on around us these days, and it’s not about technology. It’s about control.
As generally happens in human history, technology is the catalyst, but not the cause. The technology catalyzing this revolution is social media. But the cause is the same cause that drives every revolution: a group of people are seeking to shift the balance of power… and another group of people are resisting.
What’s particularly interesting about this revolution is that the shift now is moving control away from organizations and toward individuals. It’s a democratizing revolution. And amazingly, many of the individuals making the power grab are absolutely oblivious to what’s happening. They experience the daily pain points that come with being part of a movement, sure—they see friends fired for posting weekend photos to Facebook; full-time jobs turning into project-based work; and privacy disappearing thanks to unchecked “tagging” on Facebook—yet they lack the digital literacy to appreciate their role in the bigger picture.
That makes for a potentially dangerous situation. People in power don’t like to see power go, but they feel it… meanwhile, the people making the power grab are blissfully ignorant to the implications of their actions.
This has happened before:
When the printing press democratized information in 1436, the church saw its power eroded—significantly. People became literate, connected, and unencumbered, and they ushered in a—the!—Renaissance, often to the chagrin of powerful people who thought chaste women shouldn’t be painted, and certainly not in the nude. Still, the Renaissance didn’t mark the end of the church. Not even close. Where the revolution worked reasonably well, we had Michelangelo commissioned to paint the Sistine Chapel; where things went terribly awry, we had Savonarola tormenting Florence with his Bonfires of the Vanities until he was tortured and executed (fittingly, over a bonfire).
Social media won’t cause companies to implode. But companies will be forced to change. The only question is, will they change gracefully-ish? Or will resist, and risk a backlash?
If you’re a leader, then it’s not enough to simply help your organization adopt new technology. That’s like outfitting an army with weapons and then telling them to have a nice day. Very dangerous.
You’ve got to get real: control is shifting; how are you helping employees understand and prepare for the added responsibilities they’ll face? How are you developing your digital literacy so you can continue to be relevant? How are you finding your organization’s Michelangelo, and where’s that person’s canvas?
I can see this because helping companies get in front of these changes is all my company (Ajax) has been doing for the past two years. What I also see is that until a leader sees the social media revolution for what it really is, his or her organization is simply unable to get in front of it.
Jason Seiden is CEO of Ajax Workforce Marketing. Ajax amplifies brands by aligning employees' online messaging.