Hearing and seeing from multiple perspectives is required in order to capture the power of the Social Era for business.
The media provides different perspectives coming from different vantage points as it relates to whether there are real opportunities for businesses to leverage the social web. These perspectives remind us of a fable that was told in India many years ago. It is a good warning about how not viewing the power of the social web systemically can lead to misinterpretations. The story goes as follows:
“A long time ago in the valley of the Brahmaputra River in India there lived six blind men. One day they fell to arguing. The object of their dispute was the elephant. So, to satisfy their minds and settle the dispute, they hired a guide and set out to find an elephant. It was not long before they came to a forest clearing where a huge bull elephant, quite tame, was standing.”
“As all six were blind, none of them could see the whole elephant and each approached the elephant from a different direction (see Figure). After encountering the elephant, the first man cried out, ‘the elephant is like a great mud wall baked hard in the sun. The second exclaimed ‘this elephant is exactly like a spear.’ Said the third, ‘this elephant is very much like a rope. The fourth declared, ‘this elephant much resembles a serpent.’ The fifth, ‘he’s mightily like a fan.’ The sixth proclaimed, ‘this sturdy pillar feels exactly like the trunk of a great areca palm tree.”
“For depending on how the elephant is seen, each blind man was partly right, though all were in the wrong )
How Do You “See” The Social Web Today?
Like the six blind men, when business people describe the social web, they too, “see” only the parts. They see the social web as a “social tool for the youth” or a new medium for marketing and worry about security. Truth is, the social web encompasses all of the elements of every process that drives any business.
Unfortunately, like the six blind men, business perspectives about the social web are about its individual parts. it should be about the whole. Unless and until a holistic, systemic view of the social web is understood, the organization isn’t able to develop the capability of the web and isn’t able to fully leverage all the resources for innovation and growth represented by its customers, employees, partners, suppliers, and the rest of its stakeholders.
Last but not least, it seems obvious that the social web will significantly change the dynamics of business relationship. Lars Nyberg, Chairman, NCR writes “Today, business people have to ask themselves: What business are we in? Are we in the banking, retail sales or digital equipment business? Or are we in the relationship business? If the answer is not the relationship business, it’s time to think again.”
The Social Era is like a fast train coming down the track. The problem with most business leaders is they don’t hear it or see it in the right perspective, they think it is just another fad that the youth have adopted. As was the case with the six blind men and the elephant, they can’t see the whole rather all they can “feel” is the parts..
What say you?