Technology unleashes the revolution

I find New Scientist articles, though seemingly distant from the pragmatic world of commerce, often shed an interesting light on current developments.  A recent article  presented analysis by Kathleen Carley of Carnegie Mellon University that seems to show that the impact of social media in the Arab Spring was much less than has been reported. However, in the same article, another analysis was reported, this one from Philip Howard of the University of Washington, that reached an almost opposite conclusion.  Now, two academics reaching opposite conclusions about the same topic isn't anything particularly new or different.  But, it's an example of how, particularly with the enormous datasets available today, it's generally possible to find plausible analytical support for multiple points of view.

When my clients face these sorts of situations (dueling analysts, PowerPoint decks at 10 paces) I  suggest they  find a different way of looking at the issue.  In this case, happily, Dr Howard does that for us, looking more broadly at the history of previous revolutions: "In each of those other revolutions, there is some sort of media that is new and not controlled by the state. Even newspapers at one point caught dictators off guard."  Viewed from that perspective, it does seem likely that the availability of a new form of communication did lead to a different form of political behaviour.  And, one might comfortably predict that when even newer form of communication arrive (as it seems they will), they too will lead to a further revolutions.

In somewhat the same spirit, it seems likely that the business world is now facing it's own revolution, similar to (though perhaps faster than) the one caused by the internet.  And, it's not just Facebook and Twitter - they are almost extensions of the "old" internet.  The real revolution is likely to come from a combination of things: social of course, but also mobile, local, automated self-monitoring, self monitoring, "free", collaborative innovation, and - as I've heard it described - "the dictatorship of the consumer". Do you see your organisation getting ready?

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