Relatedness Matters

As the first of the global series of Social Business Summits commences this week in Austin, we’re starting a series of blog posts from some of our speakers to position our Sydney Summit and to connect with the topics across the series.

Our first guest post: Relatedness Matters, is from Howard Errey, a Headshift consultant based in Melbourne. As a pyschologist, Howard will be presenting at the Summit on organisational change and why people resist new implementations and initiatives.

“It all started with Napoleon (although Doug Rushkoff, from an economics point of view, takes it back further).
After gaining power he made a law that women could only talk in public with their husbands.  Overnight a culture of the refined art of conversation died.  It was the beginning of the age of enlightenment culminating in the developments (and crises) of science, materialism, rationalism and hypercapitalism, of the twentieth century.

Concurrent with the maintenance of such “progress”, opportunities to relate continued to get squeezed.  What results in repeated restrictions in opportunities to relate is a collective or societal hunger for relatedness.  The current opportunities that have emerged with social media and web2.0 have caught the wave of these urges.   (It would be interesting to speculate that Web2.0 would not have occurred without the pressure of this collective relatedness hunger – but that’s another post.)  Young people go to Facebook and education has discovered it needs to either go where the students are or create new social space for both direct and informal learning to occur.  The new theory of Connectivism has also had popular appeal, the idea being that we learn because we have a social network – a potentially important concept for staff and knowledge retention in a business.

In my city, Melbourne, something also seems to be happening in civic life.  Melboune’s laneways, formerly dark alleys full of rubbish and graffiti are now being invaded by cafés, bars, music venues and now other businesses are choosing to locate there.  What laneways provide is a physical opportunity for relatedness as they have an inherent architectural “pattern language” for connecting – if only because in confined spaces we are more likely to talk – though there’s more than that going on.  At the moment it’s where Melbourne people want to go.

And what are the social business opportunities?  Online we can create the “spaces” and contexts for connecting and feeling connected.  Our customers and employers are starting to expect to know how they can relate with their employer or brand.  As I walk into my local supermarket there are now no gateways treating me as something to be counted.  Instead there is a wide open space and a person who smiles and greets everyone.  And while this multinational supermarket is probably still trying to Taylorise the business to the nth degree out the back, (and there is no perceptible advantage to the customer) there is at least recognition that humanising of the business could be to their advantage. 

So what are the social shifts in your organisation and how can you harness the potential online? 

And where are the opportunities to change when there often seems to be resistance to change?  Often it can be we least expect and it takes careful observation of social and organisational dynamics before a shift can be effected.  As with the current change in our laneways, rather than one factor that makes the change it is often several small but divergent elements through which change occurs – for example, multiple graffiti incidences turned from a nuisance to become celebrated as art forms, combined with other factors like liquor licence law changes and changes in the economy.   Factors such as cues in the environment and the language we use can be changed in small ways to over time to create a larger effect, hopefully by design synchronous with the more complex emergent change factors that are seemingly uncontrollable.  Rather than linear activity we are dealing with change in environments that work like ecologies, like the humanoids in Avatar, sentsitive to our environments (even in the office!) and open to opportunities to connect and share experience.”

Thanks Howard!
Exploring the Melbourne laneways is one of my favourite activities when I’m scooting between meetings – and a great connection between these emerging spaces in laneways and our behaviours online!