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A Brief Discussion of “Social Power and the Coming Corporate Revolution,” by David Kirkpatrick on Forbes.com

September 18, 2011

Today’s post discusses “Social Power and the Coming Corporate Revolution,” by David Kirkpatrick on Forbes.com. Kirkpatrick writes about technology, among other things.

In this article, Kirkpatrick observes the power that social mechanisms, like social media sites, has allowed groups to focus in a public setting, in the Middle East, among other notable areas. This lens affect extends to other settings, as well, including businesses and their internal organizational cultures. “This social might is now moving toward your company. We have entered the age of empowered individuals, who use potent new technologies and harness social media to organize themselves.” (italics are mine, here and elsewhere, to denote excerpts from the article.)

Kirkpatrick clearly understands that these energies can be used constructively, or can be ominous. “The institutions of modern developed societies, whether governments or companies, are not prepared for this new social power. People are changing faster than companies. ‘I don’t think it’s crazy to ask if your CEO is the next Mubarak,’ says Gary Hamel, one of business’ most eminent theoreticians of management. ‘The elites—or managers in companies—no longer control the conversation. This is how insurrections start.’ ”

If social power can overtake organizations, so also can it be harnessed  by them. “And pragmatically, social power can help keep your company vital. Newly armed customer and employee activists can become the source of creativity, innovation and new ideas to take your company forward.” Kirkpatrick explores a number of tools being utilized by forward-thinking organizations to exploit the power of their crowds – employees, customers, and other stakeholders – to drive innovation, collaboration and communication in general. The article leverages examples from Coca-Cola, Ford and others to illustrate models of successful social engagement by innovative corporations.

This article should be mandatory reading for senior managers and executives, as well as for product designers, marketers and public relations staff. Whether you are a devotee of communications and social media/networking or not, the time spent reading this article will be well spent. In fact, I found so much of interest in this article, it was hard to decide what to focus on in this summary. I hope you will read it and leave a comment telling me what part of it you felt was your strongest take-away.

David Kirkpatrick can be monitored on twitter at @davidkirkpatric.

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