7. Participation Society
Organizations can leverage significantly their competitive advantage if they focus their attention in the power of social media, as opposed (or in addition) to traditional marketing techniques. Since the YouTube revolution, consumers and employees have become extremely generous in their feedback about marketing and product development. As a matter of fact, they expect businesses to create forums for idea exchange that echo with their personalities and passions, and see it as an opportunity to obtain more value out of their favourite brands. In 2007, MSN explained this trend in one of their publicity spots.
8. Social Learning
Tradition says that learning happens best in a top-down, ex cathedra fashion, in a classroom environment and with a very clear focus on abstraction and planning. This has been the case until the arrival of Learning 2.0 (the e-learning revolution of the 90s), when the presence of the knowledge-holder and the location of the students were challenged. Until the second half of the last decade Learning 2.0 was indeed all the buzz, but then a second evolutionary step in learning took place.
Social media, Wikipedia and gamification appealed to an entire generation (Gen Y) as a more engaging, mnemonic and empathic way to learn than the traditional ways. Social learning (or Learning 3.0) consists of resorting to social media, blog comments, gaming, real-time feedback, simulations and hands-on group work.
It appeals not only because it changes the format into which learning takes place, but also its content (from an abstract towards an experiential approach). It gains adepts not only in the student community, but also in the teacher and business community and it generates profound learning experiences across generations, because it creates a common language.
Businesses that have revised their L&D model have not been disappointed. They’ve discovered the benefits in productivity of blending learning into work and increasing its availability. They’ve used social learning occasions to brainstorm ideas, reframe problems, engage in lateral thinking, conduct research and, most importantly draw meaning out of experiences.
On the internet, one can find hundreds of social learning exercises that can be applied tomorrow in your companies. One such example is the marshmallow problem:
9. Corporate Social Responsibility
Until Generation Y became a consumer force, multinationals’ social programs were in most cases limited to leveraging local politics through lobbying, investing in Ivy League universities for talent pool and spending massive budgets in green marketing campaigns. Thanks to the healthy scepticism of the digital natives and their anti-publicity filters, they’ve been able to detect the inconsistencies in those programs.
In one way or another, global businesses realized that corporate philanthropy is much more believable and sustainable if it’s rooted in “win-win” situations for both the communities and the businesses: it was the beginning of Corporate Social Responsibility.
Effective CSR programs are deeply rooted in strategic business goals while integrated into social, ethical and environmental agendas: IBM, Nespresso, Ernst&Young and Pfizer are just some of those examples.
In IBM’s Corporate Service Corps, 100 highly talented employees are sent each year to gain work experience in a country targeted for growth. The projects vary from helping entrepreneurs access microloans to designing learning labs and training teachers in the most effective IT tools. Throughout the six-month program, the selected employees draw their regular salaries, allowing them to participate in meaningful change without incurring into personal financial risks.
The benefits for the company are threefold:
a) Increase their social and cultural intelligence in future markets, understand complex policy environments and develop relationship with local communities.
b) Prepare and test top talent into future global leadership positions, with hands-on experience and the development of important soft-skills, such as humility, cultural openness, adaptability, assertiveness and flexibility.
c) Attract, develop and engage high-potential, especially from a Generation Y that is particularly sensitive to those programs.
10. Arrival of Generation Y
The reason Generation Y is at the bottom of this list of changes is the same as why I’ve chosen this trend (and not any other) as the subject of my study.
Generation Y nurtures as many debates as refusals of its existence, and attracts as much admiration as rejection because it’s not a change per se, but a mirror to ourselves as society and as human beings.
The power of Generation Y is present not so much in the qualities they bring to the table, but in the subtle or deep connections they thread with each one of the previously mentioned changes (whether we admit them to take place or not): from the brute force of their demographics to their fine dreams of a better world. They are a mirror because they reflect back to us our fears about ourselves, our parenting and our future.
If we allow ourselves to join in the discussion about the reflections we receive from them, Generation Y will eventually be able to fulfill their role (just like every generation that came before and will come afterwards): cease to be a mirror to become the lenses through which we’ll build a better and renewed future.
Which social changes are you ready to admit and adopt in your life?