Social media represents a system of communications unleashed to the entire human network. However the “system” cannot be optimized for maximum performance or outcomes unless all the “parts” are connected. Current usage of social media illustrates attempts to optimize the “parts” without connecting them to the whole. There is a clearly a lack of systemic thinking about social media.
Systems thinking is the process of understanding how things influence one another within a whole. In organizations, systems consist of people, structures, and processes that work together to make an organization healthy or unhealthy and communications creates the difference..
Systems thinking is not one thing but a set of habits or practices within a framework that is based on the belief that the component parts of a system can best be understood in the context of relationships with each other and with other systems, rather than in isolation. Attempts to communicate improvement in one area of a system can adversely affect another area of the system.
Today social media applications are living in prisons, under the tyranny of the prevailing style of management and the inability of the system to interaction with people, between departments, and with suppliers and customers. These prisons cannot optimize the use of social media unless and until the “silos” of thinking and subsequent communications are torn down.
What Role Does Social Media Play?
If social media are a new system for communicating one would think that management ought to pay attention, learn, understand and use it to improve management of the system. Instead we see examples after examples of management delegating the use and study of social media to outside resources or internal self-appointed experts. Many still think that all this social stuff is for marketing or advertising. All fail to look at social media systemically.
How can anyone manage a “system” without using communications to listen, learn and understand what their system is saying? Since communications is the fiber of any economy one would think that management would study and improve communications. A system cannot be improved if communications aren’t considered a critical function that directly impacts performance of the entire system not just the parts. Communications can increase or decrease the cost of the parts based on the quality of integration. Results at the end of the system do not tell you which part of the system needs improvement. Communications are critical to improving anything and everything.
In order to truly understand current condition one must look at the numbers behind the numbers and put them into context of systemic performance. Systemic performance is not indicative of measuring results rather measuring processes behind the results.
Measuring results doesn’t tell you what is or isn’t creating the results. Behind every result there are processes, people, markets and related interactions. If you don’t understand the interactions and how well they are performing than you can’t effectively improve the pieces aimed at influencing end results.
Today markets, people, businesses, governments and society at large are influenced most by communications. Media represents a form of communications and media surrounds us, influences us and leads us to conclusions (results). If we are being led to the wrong conclusion (results) then we make poor decisions aimed at creating more results. Poor decision create bad results and the process repeats itself due to a lack of relevant and relative data from which we should be learning to make more informed and educated decisions.
Social media are an influence on markets. The market of conversations can be used to improve an organizations system and its ability to serve a market. That is of course if we understand the “system and all the interrelated parts”.
Most organizations are failing at social media because:
- It is being used in silos
- The current measures are not relevant to systemic improvements
- It is disconnected from the organizations people, processes and systemic improvements
- Use is isolated in marketing and advertising processes
- It is not designed around people’s intents or relational objectives
The advancement and improvement of any organization starts and ends with alignment of people, processes and communications. Not leveraging social technology systemically means the organization will be out of alignment.