the blog of dan pontefract | Social as a Weapon of Class Destruction
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Social as a Weapon of Class Destruction

“Who can think without horror of what another widespread war would mean, waged as it would be with all the new weapons of mass destruction.”

Archbishop of Canterbury Cosmo Gordon Lang, December, 1937 London Times newspaper

The aforementioned line is recognized as the first known use of the term ‘weapons of mass destruction’. But today, in 2013, I want to discuss a new weapon — a weapon of class destruction — and that weapon is social.happiness

Let’s first define what I mean by ‘class’.

I’d like the term class in my social as a weapon of class destruction thesis to denote two things for purposes of this piece:

  • societal & organizational status
  • the physical place we go to learn

In society (and in our organizations) there remains both a visible and at times invisible ranking system of class. In society in general, we judge those with more money and with less money. We analyze people’s socioeconomic status including where they live, what type of work they perform, and even their title at work itself. Sociologists define the theory ‘social stratification’ as Peter Saunders does in his 1990 book, “Social Class and Stratification“.

Harold Jarche recently wrote “The Social Imperative” where he states:

“Better social relationships (non-hierarchical and not based on dominance of others) can make for healthier populations. In addition, they are the only way our collective intelligence can adapt to increasing complexity. Becoming more social is not just a new business driver but also a societal imperative.”

Social as a weapon of class destruction can help us not only demystify the social stratification that manifests in society, it can assist and perhaps mitigate a culture of fear that rests in many organizations today. This culture of fear is often as a result of hierarchical systems (a hierarchy for the sake of hierarchy) and managers who breed fear as opposed to disrupting the system and encouraging openness, collaboration and, well … being social.

By being social (both the in-person face-to-face kind and through the use of collaboration tools) we will find not only healthier populations but healthier organizations.

At SAS, they have “The Hub” and at TELUS (where I’m currently employed) we recently improved our existing social collaboration experience by launching “TeamHub”. (I’ll write about this later) After four weeks, over 6,000 people are already on TeamHub (and specifically cloud-based Jam) utilizing the platform for connecting, collaborating, learning and sharing. In each case, using social as a weapon of class destruction actually unites the organization, whilst equally breaking down silos and ‘hierarchy for the sake of hierarchy.’

With this new weapon, we can break down the hierarchical status symbol in our organizations and introduce what Ronald Burt refers to as ‘near peers‘ “through whom opinion and behavior spreads through connections turn out to be network brokers”. Social can break down the class structure into a network of knowledge and innovation brokers.

And if our new weapon is breaking down the hierarchy it might as well break down the belief that all learning must occur (or does occur) in a class(room).

It doesn’t.

Charles Jennings wants us to consider ‘experience rich continuous learning‘ where he says, “by supporting and encouraging learning within the workflow, and through and with others, a culture of continuous learning will evolve.”

It can.

The use of social as a weapon to annihilate any class(room) based learning is missing the point and therefore misguided. That stated, when social is used as a weapon of class destruction we’re referring to those that believe learning only occurs in a class(room). We must compliment any class based learning opportunity with social, be it pre and/or post class learning with the use of social behaviours and of course social collaboration tools. For extra credit you will utilize social tools during the class event itself.

In summary, you may take umbrage with my use of the term social as a weapon. There probably isn’t a more friendlier term on the planet than social, so why am I turning it into a weapon?

I’ll tell you why.

Our organizations are still stuck with the ideology that those with fancier titles know more, can do more, and therefore get paid more to tell us what to do more. That’s why life happiness scores are flat and that’s why employee engagement levels remain unchanged (and at alarmingly low levels) for the past 15 years. It’s why Global Silicon Valley (GSV) Advisors predict global corporate classroom based learning expenditure will increase from $356b in 2012 to $524b in 2017; we’re stuck thinking class(room) based learning is the only (and perhaps best) way in which to learn.

That’s why we need social as a weapon of class destruction.

2Comments

  • Ralph / 3 September 2013 7:10

    This is a great post Dan…
    I like and agree with the notion of social technology being disruptive.

    It can help change learning approaches, for the better…

    I want to say that Learning teams adopting these tools for future consultations can help Help other teams learn faster and better. And a person aspiring in using this Learning Approach will need to Understand and harness the power of social media for learning. Learning professionals from learning teams can help with that, and some already are doing that 🙂

  • Jon Husband / 4 September 2013 3:44

    “those with fancier titles know more, can do more, and therefore get paid more to tell us what to do more. ”

    Until the fundamental methodology used by almost organizations to create the organizational pyramid (known as job evaluation) changes its core assumptions, this won’t change much. Those core assumptions include division of labour and segmentation into silos of domain knowledge, accountability based on size of budget under the control of a given job, constraints on action related to existing protocols and practices (and so on).

    The re-thinking (and then re-implementing) of work design and thus organizational design is a major, MAJOR undertaking. IMO the closest anyone has come to a significant re-conception of the above is Elliott Jaques’ Theory of Requisite Organization. A methodology has been developed to make the theory real. But it too has a major flaw IMHO with respect to designing and implementing work design in the networked era.

    To know more about what I think is that major flaw, someone will have to pay me 😉

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