8 Principles the Internet is Teaching Us; 8 Principles that will Change the World
Sooner or later.
(Manual for the 21st Century)
When Sir Tim Berners-Lee invented the Internet some 20 years ago, only a handful people had a clue about was going to happen. The rapid spread of the PC back then led us away from where we were actually going in those days: towards networked computing. But maybe this was a case of “by misdirections find directions out”; maybe it was a hurdle we needed to jump in order to achieve something much bigger.
So what is this “much bigger” thing?
It’s a NETWORK. Highly complex.
It’s about “being connected”. Always on.
It’s about giving a voice to everybody.
It’s about conversation. About dialogue and discourse.
It’s much more about “let it flow” than control.
It’s more pull than push.
It’s about sharing and contributing.
It’s more about topics than people.
It’s emerging order not top-down command.
It’s much more about values than money.
It’s no longer just a playground for digital natives.
It’s becoming more and more a mirror of our society.
And, first and foremost, it’s about communication …
The Internet today is reaching into each and every aspect of our daily lives. It’s simply everywhere.
No matter whether individuals or groups, governments or NGOs, enterprises or public institutions, schools or universities … Everybody is involved.
For many people it seems to be very disturbing.
A lawless, complex universe in which anarchy flourishes and uncertainty abounds.
Uncontrollable, unknown and therefore frightening.
Something which is severely challenging our traditional orders, structures and systems.
But fortunately there are many examples which show that this vision wrong.
And they are becoming more numerous with every passing day.
No doubt about it: The Internet is challenging us. In many ways.
But by the same token it also shows us how to handle precisely this kind of uncertainty and complexity.
It offers HUGE opportunities.
Opportunities which never existed before.
Companies, schools, universities who’ve really caught onto this idea, perform just great.
Some of them are truly outstanding.
(e.g. BestBuy, Ikea, Dell, zappos.com, MIT, …)
And to be honest:
Companies, institutions, governments, schools, universities …. which haven’t got it do NOT stand much chance of mid-term survival.
They will simply disappear from the market or fall way way behind.
No matter whether they act on a local or global level.
(e.g. Siemens, Music industry, …)
So the question is: What can WE learn from those who succeed and from those who have failed?
I don’t believe the secret of their success is based upon the usage of tools. Nor is it their mis-use either!
Tools are simply enablers – or not as the case may be.
What I can very clearly see, however, within all those companies and institutions who have made the grade is a fundamental shift in the mindset of their people and management.
Those who failed did so because they were stuck in their old mindsets.
It’s a cultural phenomenon.
It’s about values.
They’ve cottoned on to the fact that their own complexity has to grow in line with the complexity around them. They’ve understood that in order to benefit from the Web, they have to become part of it. They’ve embraced abundance, they freed up their leaders and they’ve empowered their people.
They’ve built an environment in which creativity can flourish.
They’ve practiced the art of letting go – they gave up control and build instead upon trust.
They’ve understood that “sender-receiver” communication is an outmoded model from the past.
They’ve accepted that power has shifted to the customer, to the people.
They collaborate – they even collaborate with competitors!
Let me boil all these thoughts down to 8 principles, cultural phenomena which drive the transformation process we are all living in. 8 principles which companies/institutions should follow in order to succeed.
Personally I find them very helpful in everyday practice.
And I am deeply convinced that if companies/institutions do embrace them, they really do become even BETTER.
BETTER in the pure sense of the term.
Get down to the basics – at long last!
Power is shifting in markets and in society. It’s no longer massive marketing or PR budgets that control what’s being pushed into markets and societies. Just what becomes powerful is more and more determined by the dynamics of the Web. Every single idea of any inhabitant of the Web has the ability to become powerful, if it “hits the nail on the head” – which means if it finds resonance (see Peter Kruse).
Thus the magic of the Web (= what becomes powerful or remains insignificant) is much more a question of finding resonance than carrying out a grandiose master plan. As a company, NGO, politician …. if you don’t find resonance, you won’t succeed. But if you do “hit the nail on the head” – enormous power will be released and success is instantly visible.
Power has clearly shifted from the provider to the consumer.
(Beispiel: Flashmobs, epetition Berlin, United Airlines video spot with guitar)
Reputation is no longer defined by the “title” or “functions” printed on your business card. Reputation in the Web is definitely defined by competence – no matter who you are, where you come from or what field you are working in.
So don’t play games. Don’t become a different version of yourself or even a slightly different version of yourself when you go online. Be authentic, open for discourse, transparent and practice ‘pull’ instead of ‘push’.
Be aware that what YOU put online it is YOUR responsibility and yours alone.
You gain your reputation by the value you add to the Net.
A reputation built on resonance doesn’t come with a life-long guarantee.
It has to be earned over and over again.
To get an idea of what is going on in the Web you have to become part of it.
Just to look and gape at it is NOT enough.
(e.g. Jack Wolfskin, Nestle)
You have to feed it in order to be fed.
The Web is not linear, it’s organic.
It depends on YOUR input in order to grow.
Even though it is highly complex, the Web makes patterns visible.
If you embrace abundance, order will emerge!
Try to get a handle on these dynamics.
Don’t control! Go with the flow.
This is the only way to find out about “mindlikes” and “counterparts”.
Who they are. Where they are. How they argue. What they do.
And the good thing about it is that every bit of information is context-related.
So this is your chance to start your personal conversation with customers, voters ….
Wastage is no longer an issue.
(e.g. Dell ideasstrom, ideagora)
Participation is no longer a pick and chose option.
The Internet is a continuous invitation to participate.
Connectivity and connectedness allow everybody to interact and participate.
Access is almost everywhere from almost any device.
And people want to join in.
No matter what age they are.
The Web is no longer just a playground for digital natives.
The Web has become a mirror of our society!
So let them participate. Enable them to do so. Encourage them!
At eye to eye level!
If you don’t they will show you how to do it!
So be prepared!
The next tsunami might be only a mouseclick away!
The challenges governments, institutions and companies are facing today are very often global in nature.
And they will be increasingly so in future.
Because these challenges have become too big, their complexity and dynamics can no longer be successfully handled by single corporations or governments.
What they require is a common global effort.
Therefore collaboration – even collaboration with competitors – becomes a necessity.
Failure to collaborate puts you at a strategic disadvantage.
But the good thing about all this is:
that the Web has reduced the cost of collaboration to almost zero.
6. Failure, Creativity and Innovation
Over the past few decades we’ve been busy optimizing.
This had a lot to do with automation.
Today innovation is the key to success.
And innovation needs ideas. A great many ideas.
Ideas that have value.
You need creative people around you to find them.
Everything becomes much more people-centric.
Creativity and technology go hand in hand.
In many ways technology supports creativity.
Together they are humanizing the way we do business.
Creativity demands failure!
Ken Robinson puts it in a nutshell:
“If you are not prepared to be wrong, you will NEVER come up with something original!”
And the Web (= new technologies) allows us to be wrong.
First of all it reduces the costs of failure just as it reduces the cost of collaboration.
And secondly the Web provides instant feedback to our ideas!
So very early on we get a pretty good idea whether if we’re on the right track or not.
In order to innovate organizations have to create a culture that allows mistakes and fosters creativity.
Very often this is a creative potential you find OUTSIDE of your organization.
Not inside. Or not inside your own department.
It might be found among your partners, clients, customers …
Or simply out there on the Web.
So step outside.
Use this potential.
Invite people to join in.
Benefit from it.
Let your boundaries become permeable.
Develop your organization towards an open system.
And consequently: Perform better!
With the advent of the Web, companies/institutions/governments are scrutinized like never before.
Citizens and customers put them constantly under the microscope.
Their tools: instant communications, whistle-blowers, inquisitive media …
Their motivation: honesty, balance of power, trust.
Corporations/institutions/governments are becoming naked.
And if you’re going to be naked, you’d better be buff – to quote Don Tapscott.
So why not turn this “thread” into something positive?
Create value out of it.
Tell the people who you’re dealing with, who you’re related to, what your means of production are, where the money goes to and where it comes from and so on …
Let them know what they want to know.
They’re bound to find out anyway. (e.g. DynCorp or …)
And by doing so – one very important side-effect is that you also reduce complexity.
You clamp down on unwanted dynamics!
And you become less liable to attack.
So make transparency central to your success.
If WE people, our companies/institutions and our governments won’t adjust to these principles – WE will fall way behind what could be. WE will never realize our true potential.