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Want to understand how to drive change? Read Groundswell: Winning in a World Transformed by Social Technologies. In it, author Charlene Li, defines groundswell as A social trend in which people use technologies to get the things they need from each other, rather than from traditional institutions like corporations.
She explains that technology allows people to buy from other people rather than a store. Go on eBay, and you can find the item you want with direct reviews from an individual. Need a job? Go to Craiglist and find one without searching through newspaper want ads.
Understanding the phenomona of groundswell means understanding that while technology is creating more venues for connection, the momentum comes from the dynamic conversations created between people through these venues. We’d rather buy from Bob Buyer in Arizona than a big store that hardly provides assistance. Why? Because we can interact with Bob and know that he’s interested in the same things we are.
In Chapter 2, Charlene Li states Here’s the principle for mastering the groundswell: concentrate on the relationships, not the technologies. In the groundswell, relationships are everything. The way people connect with each other–the community that is created–determines how the power shifts.
Companies that are succeeding understand the people side of change and work to create on-going conversations about every important topic within the organization. I work with too many company executives that fall in love with the tools rather than the people who work with them. They’ll read a book like Groundswell and decide the Internet is the answer. They’ll put millions into the latest servers with all the bells and whistles. Then they’ll wonder why their investment isn’t paying off.
While technological speed is important, having it is not going to ensure that a groundswell of conversation will occur.People are still pack animals. We still want to hang out together in communities.
You know why reality television works? Not because of the intellectual stimulation :), but because we can all talk about it and wonder what’s going to happen next. Snooki from Jersey Shore becomes our bad neighbor that we discuss over the fence. Brad from The Bachelor becomes that good looking enigma we can’t quite figure out — so we discuss it. Never underestimate the power of conversation and human curiosity.
If you want to change things, enroll people. Build communities within your corporation. Stop relying on processes and technology to create momentum and build revenue. Technology supports change, processes organize it, but people make it happen.