Social Pearls Before Swine

by Jay Deragon on 07/22/2010

The term “pearls before swine” comes from the Sermon on the Mount, a famous speech given by Christ to his disciplines. It means that people should not waste pleasant or good things on people who will not appreciate them.

In the time of Christ, pigs were regarded as unclean animals in the Jewish faith, so in a sense, the term refers to giving great things to beings which are not worthy. The fact that pearls would be essentially useless to pigs has also been pointed out, as the term illustrates that it is rather foolish to give things to people who cannot or will not use them. Pigs are unlikely to realize the value of pearls when they see them, so tossing pearls to swine would really just be a waste.

Many people use the term to talk about someone who doesn’t appreciate the value of an item or another person, as in  Some people also use this term in a resentful sense, suggesting that they offered or gave someone something superb, and ended up being snubbed.

Many people who attempt to enact social change find themselves frustrated by the pearls before swine phenomenon, struggling to understand why people reject their proposals and ideas when they hold so much promise.

The Promise of Social Technology

Technology is advancing faster than people and businesses can keep up. The tidal wave of advancement create new dynamics unforeseen and unknowable. Who would have thought just five years ago that a young kid from Harvard would create a global phenomena called Facebook? Who would have thought that people would engage in “distributed global conversations” representing 140 characters at the rate of  millions per second. Who would have thought that businesses would need to try to control these conversations by instituting “social policies” to curb risk?  The fact is and still remains that no one thought about these dynamics because the very nature of massive human interaction was not on anyone’s radar.

Now the adoption of these technologies permeates everything and touches everyone, at least those paying attention. The word “permeates” means to spread or flow throughout; pervade. When something spreads throughout it surrounds all things and begins to capture everyone’s attention. When something begins to capture the attention of the human network the draw pulls people’s emotions, intellect, spirit and the reactions create discourse and opinions that further the discourse.

Appreciation of Innovation or Wasteful Use of It?

The human reaction to disruptive innovation falls into two categories of use, useless and useful.  There is a simple, important principle at the core of  disruptive innovation fueled by people’s use of something innovative and free: people innovate faster than companies and entire industries change.  Because of this, most organizations are not ready to respond to the influence of people’s increased expectation for improvement.  The disruption is fueled by transparent communications filled with “pearls of wisdom” that show people’s expectations. The challenge for organizations then becomes one of listening and responding in real-time with innovation that exceeds people’s expectations.

Useful application of social technology by organizations is the “key” to unlocking needed innovation expected by the customer (people), internal and external. Useless application of social technology, and its related dynamics, by organizations is the age-old reaction of stinking thinking from the neck up. In this case the swine is represented by those that “fear” innovation that comes from “pearls of wisdom” offered freely by the “markets of conversations”.

People and organizations fear innovation because they try to frame it and use it with old knowledge. Thus they use social media or view it as useless.  Useless means having or being of no use and not able to give service or aid. Sounds a lot like “pearls before swine”.

{ 25 comments }

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