I make no claims to sell you on my ideas about what the real new society and economy will be like. I am only an observer and a tinckerer myself. What I do claim is that the ideas that I espouse are not just another idea. It is emerging as a real world.
When many many people start to see the same idea as a world - that world becomes a reality. This new world is coming. It is coming now! We know what it looks like. The early parts of it are up and running now. If you cannot see what I see then please try JP
I was especially struck by a post today by J P Rangaswami (@jobsworth on Twitter) who I have admired for many years. This post has a special clarity so typical of JP. So if you have trouble with how I describe what is happening please try JP.
He opens here:
“Social” is not a layer. “Social” is not a feature. “Social” isn’t a product.
Social is about bringing being human back into business. About how we conduct business. About why we conduct business.
Social is something in people’s hearts, in people’s beings, in their DNA.
Man is born social.
Many companies were not."
And then goes on to say how this came about and what is happening to bring us back to a more human and social world again.
"Until the Cluetrain guys came along and suggested that perhaps that was not the case. That perhaps there was something a teensy bit wrong with the picture.........
But what I was trying to show was that change was afoot, that something big was happening. And it all revolved around networks not hierarchies, empowerment at the edge, community-based value creation and the continued dance of Moore's Law, Metcalfe's Law and Gilder's Lemma.
Something big was happening. With the customer moving to the front and centre of the stage.
Demanding that things become personal. Again."
And he points out that the new human and social organizations are here now! And the key issue is how they SCALE:
Can such businesses exist? Is it possible to scale while remaining personal? I think yes. Provided.
Provided people understand the plural of personal is social.
I buy regularly from Abebooks, a collection of small bookshops that allied to use a common digital infrastructure in order to scale and achieve geographic reach. They were bought by Amazon some years ago. And then apparently left alone by Amazon, for some strange reason….. my accounts remain separate, the Amazon recommendation engine does not work on my Abebook purchases, the Amazon review process has not yet made its way into Abebook world. But I’m happy. Because I get the simplicity and convenience of a very large inventory across thousands of bookshops, a built-in price comparator, one-click fulfilment processes…. and personal service.
Most of the time, when I get something from an Abebooks shop, the person who ships the book (often the seller) leaves a personal note. Usually signed. Usually saying thank you for your purchase. And over the years I’ve gotten to know some of those people. We have a relationship, we know each other by name, know something about each other, enjoy doing business with each other. And guess what? I’ve never had a problem with Abebooks. Never had to worry about damaged goods or returns or faulty or anything like that.
How can Abebooks do this? I think there are four reasons.
One, it’s an aggregation of individual shops, a network rather than a hierarchy.
Two, that network retains empowerment at the edge, the people in each shop still remember what a customer looks like and why a customer is important. [As Peter Drucker said "The purpose of business is to create a customer". We should never never forget that].
Three, they use digital infrastructure to do the mundane repeatable things that digital infrastructures are good at: reducing search costs, taking fulfilment and billing friction away allowing for two-way communications, connecting the participants up.
And four, because they care.
Because. They. Care.
When personal is scaled up, we need to ensure that the ability to care is retained and enhanced.
It’s not just about Abebooks. I shop regularly at Etsy. Again the same thing, personal service from individuals whom I dealt with by name, people who remembered my name, people who signed their names to the missives and thank-you notes. People who were polite and courteous. People who appeared to care for my business. For Abebooks read Etsy. For Etsy read Discogs. The list could go on and on. Places where I could deal with real people and have real conversations. Places that had the same characteristics as Abebooks.
Social is the plural of personal. It starts with caring. Something that has to be in the DNA of the firm.
That caring mentality leads to a relationship where people know each other, their names, what they do, what they like, what they don’t like.
That caring mentality leads to the willingness to invest in the relationship, to spend time, to build trust.
The digital infrastructure is only there to enable and enhance all this, by making it easier to connect with each other, to converse, to remember likes and dislikes. That digital infrastructure is there to help ensure that analog errors can be reduced: forgetfulness, name and address errors, mistakes made in hearing what was said. That digital infrastructure is there to reduce friction and to simplify discovery, inventory searching, price comparison, order entry, fulfilment and billing.
But it all begins and ends with the person, and being personal.
What does all this have to do with social? Well, when you try and scale up personal, think of what happens to the customer. More choices. More inventory. More selections. More advertising. More More More.
So customers need help. Help to find what they’re looking for. Advice on what is good and what is not. Signals on whom to trust and whom not to trust. How do customers do this? They turn to their friends.
Social. Not a layer. Not a feature. Not an app.
Social is the plural of personal."