When Nilofer Merchant first met Steve Jobs, it went badly. She was Channel Manager at Apple and presented how well she was doing. Jobs’ first words to her were: “Fuck the Channel.” This was despite her having grown her part of the business more than any other part of Apple.
Her insight was this: Leaders need to hold two conflicting things as true. They need to lead towards the future and let go of the present, but also to hold true and manage what we do today. Jobs was at that moment looking around the corner into the future instead of admiring the present success.
According to Merchant, social is what people do well – we connect, ask questions, build relationships – it is what we are naturally good at. This means that social media is now bringing people into a more natural communication environment than the last centuries of top-down media starting with Gutenberg.
When you look at communication as a central tool of leadership and a practical way of lowering transaction costs, social media can translate into a hugely more productive way of doing business and running organizations.
Merchant says that organizations need to completely reimagine their way of working in the social world, otherwise they will be like “a gorilla wearing Spandex”. Relationships are to this era what efficiency was in the past. Efficiency measures can at worst deny us the meaningfulness of our work and stand in the way of building relationships. They stand in the way of modern-day value creation.
In the world of social, success is a function of talent, purpose and culture. And if you have these three factors, social can give one individual the same power as a big organization. It’s scary, and it challenges traditional control-based management. But it is probably the only recipe for true success in the future.
Author: Erik Bäckman (@ErikMiltton on Twitter)