Living in the Groundswell

March 16, 2009

I have “groundswell approach-avoidance syndrome.”  It’s nice to have it diagnosed—the first step to recovery they say…  Here’s one of the symptoms noted in the book Groundswell :  “Anxiety at the thought of actually participating in social technologies, balanced by similar anxiety at the thought of missing out.”  I became particularly agitated and anxious when they go on to report that “The groundswell trend is unstoppable and your customers are there.”   Okay, okay, now you’re getting to me—we’ve got money on the line. 

 It’s a good thing Groundswell gives a prescription for my problem/syndrome.  They even have it broken down into a great little acronym:  POST (People, Objectives, Strategy and Technology).   I did find the next steps under “Objectives” a little easier to get my arms around:  listening, talking, energizing, supporting, and embracing.  That’s probably because they can be directly linked to other familiar business functions—you just do them differently.  A good example being a traditional business task of “research” is correlated with the groundswell notion of “listening.”  Only in the groundswell approach you “listen” to conversations your customers have with each other as well as having a potential for more direct one-on-one dialogue with a customer.    Sales (the old way) vs. “energizing”  (Groundswell alternative) is about “making it possible for customer to help sell each other.”  The chart (“Existing business functions and their groundswell alternatives”) was very helpful.

A recent article in Forbes magazine, “Yes, CEOs should Twitter and Facebook” mirrors chapters 3-6 in the Groundswell—complete with a discussion of Blendtech.  In fact, I wondered if the author of the on-line article was just providing a synopsis of the book.  The article goes on to elaborate about the problem CEOs face in adopting groundswell strategy that is so antithetical to a corporate culture of control.  I was interested in the prospect of new forms of leadership evolving out of application of groundswell principles.  Not only can a CEO lead the way on use of this medium; it gives a leader more opportunity to interact with employees (or constituents in the case of politics) in ways never possible before.  Both sources give cautionary tales about the pitfalls of releasing bad information, company employees saying stupid things, the groundswell taking the discussion where you may not want it to go and the problems that can arise when you’re inconsistent with your communication—or even attempting to stop the communication process all together once it is going.  Both book and article agree, however, that companies ignore the groundswell and web 2.0 at their peril. 

These chapters were heavy on “big corporation tactics” and I’m hoping that the book will get down to dealing with smaller organizations and businesses.  With each sentence I’m comparing the possibilities for use by the non-profit I work with, for my children who are starting an on-line business, and for my spouse who has an older well-established business.  It’s a really good exercise and I am excited to sift through all the possibilities and learn such important and all applicable information.




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