5 Stages of Social Transformation

by Jay Deragon on 01/19/2011

Social media are communications. Communications drives everything and influences everyone. Society, organizations and personal transformation (change) happens as the result of communications. Nothing changes unless the who, what, why, when, where and how is communicated.

Wall Street moves based on the communication of information. Organizations move based on what is communicated internally and externally. Religion moves people based on the communications and agreement of religious doctrines.

People are influenced by communications and the subsequent actions create transformation of relationships, markets and the entire economy.

Stages of Social Transformation

Social media influences group dynamics because of the reach and influence of communications. We are all connected to “the human network group” which has become self aggregated into sub groups of interest and affinity. These “groups” are learning, sharing, collaborating and aiming at ways to make progress. Each person and organization goes through “stages” that are all necessary and inevitable in order for them to grow into all things social, to face challenges, to tackle problems, to find solutions, to plan work and life, and to meet personal and collective goals. The stages are:

  1. Forming: In the first stages of “social groups”, the forming of the group takes place. The individual’s or organizational behavior is driven by the need to take part in the markets of conversations. When people begin to discover “social media” the first stage reflects learning, excitement as well as confusion. Trying to decide or discover who, what, where, when, how and why can seem overwhelming. Whether individually or organizationally the task at hand is learning about the different uses of social media and the implications. The forming stage of any group is important because, in this stage,the groups learning curve is influence by those they choose to associate with or follow for the purposes of learning. Those that jump in without learning stumble and fall.
  2. Storming: Every group will next enter the storming stage in which different ideas compete for consideration. The group addresses issues such as how social media can create or find solutions to relevant problems.   Arguments on what ideas are the best and references to who to follow for the best information or knowledge ensue. In some cases storming can be resolved quickly. In others, the group never leaves this stage. The maturity and knowledge inventory of  group members usually determines whether the group will ever move out of this stage. Group leadership and intervention of new knowledge is needed to move a group to the next stage. The storming stage is necessary to the growth of a group. It can be contentious, unpleasant and even painful to members of the group who are averse to conflict. This phase can become destructive to the group and will lower motivation if allowed to get out of control. Some groups will never develop past this stage.
  3. Norming: The groups knowledge grows and they come to a mutual plan for use of social media and how to carry out the plan.   In this stage, all group members knowledge domain grows and the group begins to comprehend ways it which social media can be used to accomplish specific goals. The group obtains a “common”  perspective on the systemic nature of social media and the group members influence grows outside and inside organizations.
  4. Performing: Some groups reach the performing stage. These groups are able to create meaningful and significant change using social technology as the means to create innovation. Performing groups are motivated and leverage what they are learning to create new knowledge. The  competency of these groups grows as the groups knowledge expands. These groups rely on the “wisdom of crowds”  and their own creativity to advance their thinking. The group seeks innovative ideas for solving existing problems and/or creating new markets from the collective intelligence gained from “wisdom and creativity”. They understand that social media are channels to learn, engage and share with markets, groups and crowds.
  5. Transformation: Even the most high-performing groups will revert to earlier stages in certain circumstances. Many long-standing groups go through these cycles many times as they react to changing developments. Those that reach the transformation stages are the groups who create meaningful and significant change that positively impacts the entire human network. These groups are philosophically connected and grounded in a common set of principles that guide everything they think and do.  Reflect on the history of mankind and you’ll recognize “groups” that changed our world.  They were able to reach the transformational stage.

Look for those groups in stage five and you’ll get a picture of the future.


Emily July 15, 2013 at 4:14 am

Interesting comparison of social media to society! Communities are vital for humans to continue progressing as a species and clearly as our society has progressed into a digital world, our communities and forming of relationships has had to adapt too.

pr sharma October 31, 2012 at 6:40 am

We are faith base organization working for social transformation in remote and hilly of Nepal I found the text very useful for us .
Thank you very much
PR sharma

Brian Driggs January 19, 2011 at 2:34 pm

Telling post, Jay.

Communities are born out of similarly-minded individuals coming together to share what they know. The big bang, if you will, occurs when the competing visions of the future finally combine into a agreeable majority, set a course, and tow the line. As the course becomes more clear, the community grows until such time as the winds die down due to the age of the original core purpose. If a new course is not plotted, and the sails not re-aligned, the community runs aground.

Transformative communities must balance all these factors, as they are continually reconsidering their visions and directions. As the members of a community evolve, so too must the community itself. Foundations are built upon shared information, however communities are made sustainable through meaning.

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