Social Blindness: So You Think You Understand

by Jay Deragon on 11/05/2013

sipocSocial blindness, not unlike systemic blindness, is when leaders pursue the use of social strategies, tactics and tools to solve a problem but in doing so they actually create a bigger problem.  In other words ignoring the dynamics of your eco-system in pursuit of a result using social tools is representative of social blindness.  An organization with social blindness tends to trip over their own words and eventually lose credibility with their stakeholders.

The problem gets compounded by the systemic nature of social dynamics fueled by intangible capital that pulls on the hearts, minds and souls of the human network. Meanwhile executives still stuck in the mindless thinking reflective of the ego-systems of the past have framed social technology into this mechanical tool to extend 20th century thinking about strategies, tactics and business tools for achieving tangible results.

Connectedness is In: Separateness is Out

We live within a complex web of interdependent, interrelated and social systems. Executives must remove their social blinders to understand the natural law of interdependency. To understand the natural law of interdependency executives need to think systemically to ‘”see the economic, social and ecosystems their organizations are part of.” To understand connectedness think in these terms:

  1. Everything is connected; hence what happens in one part of the ecosystem effects another: Just because social technology enables you to spread your marketing message across many channels doesn’t mean you your stakeholders won’t fact check everything you say and test your organizations ability to do what you say. While you may use social technology to sell more the market uses it to build more relationship capital. Your objectives are to create tangible results while the market’s objectives are to build intangible results. You better know the difference.
  2. Separateness is Out: Using social strategies, tactics and tools then calling that a path to becoming a “social business” is like painting a billboard on the web that says “We’re a social business and we have social policies that every employee follows”. Like a bull in a china shop, however, business leaders and compliance managers pursue their own self-interests without considering the consequences on those systems. The natural law of cause and effect is ubiquitous. Your failure to understand this always produces dire outcomes.
  3. Context matters; a lot! What used to be considered as business as usual is now out of context with business as unusual? The dynamics of an interconnected marketplace that seeks value creation from intangible capital is creating a new kind of business dynamic that is in fact unusual. It is unusual to old business context about rules of engagement, human capital, and participation, learning and social dynamics. Everything we thought we understood needs new understanding to have context in a world that is in fact connected and no longer separated by power, economics or the influence of traditional media.

To see the social and ecosystems your organization is part of you have to see the whole system and not the parts and then and only then will you understand how to optimize the economic opportunities of serving the interactions. But to do so it is imperative that you change how you think so you can begin to change what you do and more importantly understand what you see. Get it?


ursula dauenhauer November 11, 2013 at 5:13 pm

Systemic thinking in command-and-control management hierarchies under pressure of having to “be seen to behave socially”. Traumatic change indeed. I have heared a lot about “Systemic Constellations” (evolved to organisational applications from Bert Hellinger’s family constellations) as a controversial but highly effective modality to understand systemic patterns and relationship dynamics in human (and abstract) systems. For those in search of authenticity and truth – despised by political players and protectors of status quo. Would love to hear from people who have heard about it, experienced it or apply it.

Francis Lambert November 5, 2013 at 5:00 am

Thank you Jay for the great article. Anything that can be done to raise the awareness around the dynamics of an organisation is a good thing. The sooner organizations and leaders can begin to understand the dynamics at play in their environments the sooner they can start to correct the negative dynamics at work and start releasing the kinetic value, inherent in cooperation and synchronized movements.

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