When I was starting out in business my father told me to pay attention to input from everyone – regardless of their role in an organization – because you never know from where the best ideas might come. He was a great believer in order, my father. He was an architect after all. At the same time he never failed to remember that though he drafted the blueprints, without complete collaboration of all players in the ecosystem – from the guy who poured the foundation, to the carpenters, electricians, plumbers and so forth – no building could be completed, let alone stand on solid ground.
This is one of the most remarkable things about social media. Suddenly one can access a vast pool of talent – people with whom you might never otherwise come in contact – and tapping such an array of thinking can bring fresh perspective to any project. No longer are you limited to the people you know directly or those who are within a geographic realm. Now just as one’s canvas is global, the materials with which you decorate it are almost infinite. It’s particularly great for individuals who no longer need struggle to create things on their own, and can tap into the greater group think for ideas and for support. For organizations – especially smaller ones that are resource constrained – social media can serve to bolster those limited resources allowing businesses to thrive.
That’s the good news.
The bad part comes with the very nature of social media. Generally I eschew descriptions that there are “two kinds” of people or behavior, but the truth is that these platforms and technologies have a penchant for polarizing perspectives. On the one hand, there can be a tendency to lean too heavily onconsensus – which isn’t always a good thing; and extensive input can be problematic, especially if it comes from the sort of social media folks whose penchant for self-involved navel gazing means they take their own opinions as gospel. See the conflict? A need for everyone’s voice to be heard, combined with voices who tend to think the world revolves on their opinion’s axis. Frustrating at best and disastrous at worst.
The key to collaboration in the world of social media is finding the balance between having a strong sense of self (whether individual or organizational) and embracing the larger “team”in which that “me” exists.