3.8 Valuable leadership

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    Communities, the virtual tribes of connected people, generally have a somewhat self-appointed tribal leader. The seeking human follows him or her and waits. You will, therefore, see the phenomena in communities of interest where too many kindred spirits wait for the leader to say or do something; the members are not yet taking enough responsibility. The goal, and the way it can be reached, is not always clear.

    A social network with sheer non-tangible results is granted only a short life. It will fail under its own one-sidedness. The like-minded members indeed show their connection, dedication, and involvement, but they miss a link to the “outside,” which means that non-members will not be able to adopt the combined ideals that are produced in the network. Virtual communities of purpose, with only kindred spirits who exclusively live off the social capital, have proven to be ineffective. At the same time, the economic and financial crisis has shown us that we are also not sustainable if we only focus on financial aspects when working together.

    In the introduction, I pictured a train, moving quickly through the landscape. Looking out of the window of the bullet train between Shanghai Pudong Airport and the city of Shanghai, our eyes are having trouble getting a clear picture. It is almost a blurred reality out there. However, inside your own compartment, there is the “real life,” or at least your perception of it. The same thing, again, is our present. The world around us is changing so fast, and we are confronted with new technologies every day. The amount of available data and information streams are so huge that our picture tends to blur, and we are desperately sticking to the world as we know it (knew it?) in order to keep our sanity. I take my time digesting a selected number of sources, and try to picture (a very big picture, though!) if, and if so, how, these events will influence my life, my company (with all its products and services), and even my world. I see a future. Or, at least, a direction in which my future (commercial) life is taking me.

    So, I know what train to take.

    Then, inside my compartment, I start exchanging notes with my follow travellers. Almost on a informal and daily basis, innovative ideas come up – some more sustainable to what we are doing, and others are more disruptive. We start prototyping, a nice word for “trial and error” product development. And, we learn every day. Of course, you need people around you with different talents to get the best results. Some are daredevils, and some act from within an internal vision, almost intuitively. Others are more mathematical, and some are, frankly, boring.

    Having some “boring” people around you is handy. Boring people form the stability a company needs. They keep the day-to-day stuff going, and make sure things like accounting, tax returns, and conversations with your financial stakeholders are moving along at the right pace and on the right paths. They may have an innovative idea sometimes, but it better be for the sustainability of the organization. A disruptively thinking banker, accountant, or bookkeeper is not my cup of tea. That is a cup of tea I’d rather drink at the casino, or with the cups and balls players in the streets. Then I know upfront I am being screwed.

    So, I have become, over the past years, what I call a trend strategist, or trendwatcher (in Dutch, we like to mash words together). I trendslate trends into pieces of information, or business models, and help my stakeholders to stay “on board,” mentally and physically, with the things we are doing. Of course, I am being assisted by other stakeholders doing this. My Web guys and girls watch and report what’s going on in their world, and others help me, like a mirror, to put my thoughts in order. So, who are your trendwatchers and trendcoaches on the team?

    Some people are talented at making connections with the more traditional organizations. Sustainable economical value creation needs connections between the old world of financial capital and the new world of social capital. The established organizations, which are doomed because of their disastrous course, need so-called “new leaders” to be reinvigorated. This has to become a continuous effort within new Society30 organizations. The author Kim Korn calls this, on his blog, Create Advantage, “regenerative management.” The independent professionals, or knowmads, are natural connectors. When the new leaders and these independent professionals meet each other in new value networks, a sustainable base is created for the development of economic value. Co-creation takes place.

    In the end, we need a kind of organizational structure that provides value networks a transparent place, starting points, and a mission. The knowledge to do this is available within many organizations, so if all that knowledge can be put into action in a new way, something beautiful can arise. If organizations work together with knowmads, they will form a kind of construction, which I call a Social Economical Entity (SEE).

    This means that the known Internet groups, like LinkedIn and Facebook, indeed form the starting point for new value creation, but that creation will only come into being if the old and the new worlds merge, and cooperation moves away from the traditional value chain to the Society 3.0 value networks.