Sticks and stones may break bones, but words are, allegedly, harmless. Or maybe not. There can be a violence in communication, not an act of physical aggression, but aggression nonetheless. The violence of vitriol, carefully constructed to cause pain. I was struck by this in a conversation about change, a conversation that moved to blame, fault, and tribalism.
When the banks collapsed in the last financial crisis, there was a phrase bandied about, that some were ‘too big to fail’. This week i’ve been pondering something of the opposite: are some organisations ‘too big to succeed’. I’m not thinking specifically of their headcount, their geographical spread, or the physical weight of their buildings, but rather more the radical complexity of their networks, the unknowable nature of their knowledge, and the sheer inertia of their formal hierarchies. Possibly good organisations, probably doing good work, but ultimately doomed to fail through their inability to understand their true dynamics.
The idea that Social Learning is somehow separate from other types of learning is a misnomer. For me, it represents simply the ownership of, and engagement, with the learning story. ‘Formal Learning’ is a story written by the organisation, and distributed to people: it’s ideal where you need consistency, conformity, where you are trying to build a codified strength, but it lack the context of practice, of local understanding, and often has no space for individual interpretation.
Trees grow, and we can nurture that growth. They are part of a wider ecosystem, and both contribute to the health of that system, and rely upon the overall connectivity of it. They are cyclical, and carry their growth as rings. Trees both burst into blossom, but also shed their leaves, in annual cycles of renewal, and that is a central theme of Social Leadership, which i address at the very first stage, ‘Curation’. We do not choose our space forever, we choose a foundation to build upon. I like the idea that some leaves we shed, and some just get blown away as we are battered by the wind. But overall, it’s a continual cycle of growth, shedding, and renewal.
We are relocating from a space of certainty, to a place of doubt: our domain based Organisations, with the systems of education that feed them, and the markets that sustain them, all evolving. This is not a time for answers, but rather a time for questions, and to consider the mechanisms of sense making that will help us to ask the right ones.
Social Leadership is a style fit for the Social Age: it’s about building social authority, reputation based leadership that is consensual by the community. It’s complimentary to formal leadership but vital at a time when formal authority delivers a diminished return.
In this podcast Julian talks about the Six Tenets that any Social Leader will adhere to: These are: Be Curious, Try-Learn-Try, Share, Be Humble, Tell Stories, Be Fair and Protect.