Wasted Social Productivity

by Jay Deragon on 03/12/2012

While all things social are being touted as innovative ways to “produce things” the reality is that all things social are currently non-productive.

You might say that social is much more productive than traditional advertising and marketing methods. However that is like saying that your car goes faster using higher octane gasoline, it doesn’t but it cost more.

Does the increase in hiring people with knowledge about all things social represent more production? NOT! Does having to create on-line content, maintain all those profiles, keep up with the daily technological advances and follow every word from the most popular represent a gain in productivity? Not!

So we must begin to ask how can we use all things social to improve productivity gains? Your next question is likely why?

Non Productive Activities Hurt Results

We wonder why much of the on-line dialog about social media is about ROI. Everyone is coming up with metrics to justify the investment of time and money to create and manage all things social. Subsequently we see quantitative and qualitative measures used to again justify investments in all things social.  Does anyone ever consider the time, energy and money spent trying to define and measure justification of social may be non-productive?

Productivity in Economics is simply the ratio of how much you can produce (Output), based on the resources available (Inputs). This is usually linked to production theory.

While the internet has advanced some productivity in many ways it is still very non-productive. There are 1,000’s of communities discussing KM, SC, Economics etc etc etc. None of which are able to inventory relevant and relative “knowledge assets” and parse them into “smart databases” for use for the many.

We are still stuck with key words and categories which are meaningless. The context of content loses meaning without being tied to a taxonomy or any “onomy” of sort. Subsequently content is for the moment because who has time to read and create a “logic tree” from dozens, hundreds or thousands of “post” wrapped in irrelevant containers.

Things will change soon but until then all of us have to decide what is and isn’t productive in terms of use of our time and individual knowledge assets.

The next phase of the internet will be driven by “knowledge inventories” created by individual knowledge assets” which can be accessed systemically rather then rest in silos of meaningless context which are very non productive. The next iteration of the internet will raise productivity when “accessing knowledge assets” is designed with intent, efficiency and effectiveness. Knowledge assets rest in the minds of those who have value to add to improving anything. When improvements are driven by knowledge productivity goes up. When productivity goes up everyone benefits.

However, sometimes we have to do non-productive things to learn how to be productive.



John Maloney March 21, 2012 at 7:16 am

Hi –

Good point on wasted social productivity. Measuring social is not bad per se, it is bad when social metrics are used for conventional business practices. For example, if social is applied to conventional and customary push marketing, then it is a disgraceful waste. Meanwhile, when thoughtful and comprehensive social measures are applied for inbound marketing, developing relationships and emergent markets, they are superbly and magnificently productive!

Productivity and productivity growth (innovation) is seen every day by those using social metrics to embrace the networks and relationships that determine desirable outcomes in fast advancing social business models.

Meanwhile, creating ‘knowledge inventories’ is utter nonsense. It has been tried for decades, by very clever people, and gets nowhere. There have been, and will always be, spectacular failures. The problem is the Newtonian model of analytic reductionism fails outright when applied to knowledge. Beware.

In leading KM worldwide for 23 years, and with intimate and lasting relationships with all the top, recognized, global leaders, it can be said with confidence the notion of knowledge assets, capital, inventories, taxonomies, etc., is just patently ridiculous.

Unfortunately, every few years, the ‘knowledge inventory’ baloney pops up again and again, always by arrogant Western rationalists. They think they can apply analytic reductionism to complex phenomena like knowledge networks. They ALWAYS fail and eventually go away. Some embrace the enlightened knowledge thinking while others just try to force the issue. It can be rather sad and painful to witness all the wasted energy and lost productivity.

Of course the greatest contemporary thought leader concerning business knowledge is a friend and colleague, Ikujiro Nonaka. Here is a lecture in Vienna I attended while advising one of his PhD candidates in knowledge management a few years ago. It is a good summary of the principles.


In short, business knowledge is about distributed phronesis. Here is the classical treatment.


Sadly, no matter how hard we try, some people occasionally still pursue dopey knowledge inventories. Fortunately, it is becoming more and more rare, since it is a confident path to oblivion.

However, it is often difficult to pull demented adherents back from the brink. In KM we have learned, painfully, that ardent Newtonian rationalism is a cognitive pathology and difficult to cure. The afflicted pursue a zero-sum game. It is best avoided.

Anyway, what we strive to do is try and show them the way out of their failed thinking and the overbearing farce of knowledge inventories.

Meanwhile, concerning social productivity growth and knowledge, praxis intervention and phonetic science are strongly recommended.



In summary, business productivity and knowledge inhabits complex networks. It CANNOT be broken down and reassembled. Rather, praxis and phronesis achieve social comprehension, maturity, productivity, growth, prosperity and optimal outcomes overall.


Solidus March 13, 2012 at 9:19 pm

Request you stay on this topic for improving awareness iv shared this knowledge and i know i want to know more on this issue? thanks be well.

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