Final Lessons from “Groundswell”

March 30, 2009

I was intrigued by Nicco Mele’s  comments  in class last Wednesday (March 18, 2009) when he put up his “favorite slide” of the internet (the multi-colored, spider-web looking one of the internet).   Nicco then stated:  “The challenge is to look at this slide and try to figure it out.  You can’t dominate it.  It is not mass media; it is more one-to-one moving into many-to-many.  You need to think of it more of as a bunch of little towns that you have to go visit.” 

A bunch of little town that I need to go visit…    That struck a chord as I read through the rest of the book Groundswell.   You have to figure out how to go “visit” people where they live and engage them in conversation and through that conversation provide ways to meet their various needs.  No more “shouting at them” which has been the case with traditional media, marketing, and even political organizing.   This is going to take some serious re-training of thought for most companies and organizations…and for me.

The good news for everyone is that it is such a better way to operate.  Just imagine being able to more fully harness the intelligence, creativity and altruistic impulses of the masses—all those little towns.   The one-way conversation is truly over and I think that is why there is such a palatable panic among all entities to try to figure it out.

“People expect you to engage them, listen to them, and respond to them,” seemed to be the theme throughout the remaining chapters of Groundswell.   There was good information on how to go about it, even though it was more oriented to large companies.  Being in Robert Putnam’s Social Capital class, I enjoyed reading about company “wikis” and networks and how they are being used to create company social capital.  Some great examples were Intel’s “Intelpedia” and Best Buy’s “Blue Shirt Nation.”   There’s got to be some insights and lessons in there about how to put this to work in building effective grassroots and political structures.  Because the groundswell thing as a whole requires such novel thinking, I’m left wondering if only the young minds who live and breathe the internet and social networking are going to be able to sort it all out.  It all kind of hurts my brain.

The last chapter of the book “The Future of the Groundswell” was quite fun to read.  I think the authors were probably a little ahead of themselves by placing the year 2012 for their futuristic scenario.   I’m curious what Nicco’s predictions for that year might look like.  It appears part of the future will require technologies that can help you manage the tsunami of information that will be coming at you—finding ways to manage and control it so it useful rather than just overwhelming.    

I appreciated the book’s final comments about the people who are “successful groundswell thinkers and innovators” who are also very humble about their success.  “They seem to reflect a down-to-earth quality because they know they are in touch with some bigger than they are.”  Indeed.  This is bigger than all of us.


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