Flexibility is the New Relevance

You often hear people talk about Twitter or Facebook with the same disdain/detachment that parents tend to have when they analyze some outlandish outfit that their teenage son or daughter is wearing before heading out to school. “Oh it’s just a fad,” Mom says as Dad averts his eyes shaking his head in subdued shame and contempt at the zebra print/goth/homeless attire of his 15 year old daughter.  Oftentimes things really are fads, such as:

- Rolling your jeans up at the bottom like Zack Morris (mid 90s)

- Saying “diesel” as a replacement for “cool”

- Slap bracelets

- Neon

Now many of these things have come back or at least have resurfaced with some kind of postmodern ironic appreciation, but the fact remains, they are trends, now dead.  People are so used to this come-and-go process in our culture that when things like Twitter come along many simply write it off as a fad. I was in a conversation the other day where someone predicted the death of Twitter within 18 months.  At first my reaction is, of course, it’s all going to die/morph/change eventually, BUT it’s creating something that is more than a trend, it’s creating a new human mode of expression.  The new human mode of expression that started with email and is now continuing with Twitter is simply the idea of being online- communicating via digital instead of physical.  It’s the same modal shift that letter-writing and the telephone brought, the difference is obvious.

Yet many business leaders take the idea of a trend as an excuse not to learn the language, not to participate or to simply ignore what’s happening.  This is not the fault of the tools it’s the fault of modern leadership culture, specifically, not being flexible.  It’s fear, really; fear of being overwhelmed, fear of not getting it, fear of exposing personal insecurities to the whole world, etc… But the bottom line is that just because something is a trend doesn’t mean you should ignore it.  If Twitter does die in 12 months, will you be any more prepared for what the next “big thing” is?  Chances are it’s going to work in a very similar way to Twitter (people make profiles, gain connections, communicate).  So if a business leader can overcome the initial fear related to a trend they are in a position to benefit from more than the trend itself but the cultural impact that the trend leaves in it’s wake.  All it takes is a first step.

The secret to being relevant in an information society is being…FLEXIBLE!

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