I was part of a fascinating discussion recently, hosted by WatsonHelsby, at which the author Martin Thomas took us through the thinking behind his new book ‘Loose’. The basic premise is that many organisations are still suffering from the delusion they can control what people both do and think. The book had particular relevance to the many communications directors around the table, all of whom are grappling with the reality of both social media and behavioural change. It can be all to easy to see a loosening of control as a threat to the traditional hegemony of organisations. Indeed, if much power is based on knowledge then due to social media today’s leaders often find themselves in the curious position of knowing less than their employees.
But why not turn this on its head. Loose organisations, which allow freedom within a framework, can benefit enormously from non-hierarchical ways of working; where information and knowledge is shared across organisations; and where collaboration can unleash creativity. These are the real benefits that the social media revolution can bring.
And who is best placed to help organisations make sense of this new thinking? Why not the communications head. Rather than seeing themselves as the controller and message manager, surely there is a role for them as a true agent of change.
Finally, it would be unwise to see the power of social change as an option. Social media is helping to democratise information both inside and outside organisations. In fact, one of the few remaining bastions of the feudal system is the corporation. CEOs should ignore social change at their peril. After all, change can as easily come from below as from above.