It is easy to dismiss the social media fascination of today’s young people as a misaligned priority and an escape from productive work. Out-of-touch U.S. Senators try to decide how to legislate against it, without a scintilla of understanding of the phenomenon. Unbeknownst to them, there is a deep idea behind social media that will accelerate and elevate innovation and entrepreneurial productivity.
A new definition of entrepreneurship is now emerging. Entrepreneurship is no longer the linear, sequential, pre-social media idea of finding a market gap and filling it, or finding a consumer dissatisfaction and solving it. Entrepreneurship lies in interconnecting people, knowledge, technology, ideas and actions so that new innovations emerge. It is the interconnecting itself that constitutes entrepreneurship.
In other words, individual entrepreneurs do not start with a brilliant and disruptive business idea. They start with connections.
The First Collaborative Car.
Recently, thousands of people from all over the world came together to design a new car. The context was a development project called “Fiat Mio”- “the first collaborative car.” It was a deliberate attempt to overturn the traditional development process by interconnecting as broad a network of people as possible to gather and shape innovation ideas. Thousands of ideas from over 100 countries were gathered, and integrated into a new car launch. Moreover, all the ideas were placed in Creative Commons, so that they remain available to all, a complete inversion of the traditional route of secrecy and patent protection. The Fiat Mio project started with connections, with no end result in mind.
The new paradigm starts with economic actors assessing their own knowledge (“What Do I Know?) and their own network (“Who Do I Know?”) and then using devices to interconnect with new knowledge or data, and with other knowledgeable actors who might be able to supplement the data or may have ideas on how to use the data in new ways. It’s an entrepreneur-centric system in which the individual takes responsibility for compiling their own data and then connecting to others to act upon that data. For example, if you are managing your own healthcare entrepreneurially, you will take charge of compiling your own healthcare records and then assemble your own network of doctors and clinics and pharmacies and insurance providers to act upon the data in those records.
Knowledge Is Now Social.
We are used to thinking of knowledge as expertise, something on which an expert holds some kind of specialist monopoly. We might think of college professors, or doctors or chefs as experts – trained, specialized, career-long accumulators and protectors of scarce knowledge. No longer. Now knowledge lies in the social domain. We can collect our own knowledge through interconnection – with online sources, with peers who have relevant experience that they will share, with communities who give knowledge support. The entrepreneur is active in collecting, curating and interpreting the knowledge that is available.
Control Has Shifted.
Now that experts are no longer required, the entrepreneur is more in control. The individual can choose and manage his or her interconnections, pursuing those that yield the most assistance and productivity and collaboration. Building and nurturing the right portfolio of interconnections – the right social media network, if you will – becomes an important entrepreneurial skill.
The Expertise Of Innovation Has Shifted.
Innovation used to be thought of as a scientific or technical process competence of skilled innovation producers who “bring new products and services to market”, or “introduce” or “launch” new initiatives. These are all linear concepts. Now that knowledge is social rather than scientific, innovation becomes a social competence practiced by those who are good at social networking. Innovation is socially embedded co-creation. The social network can include people, knowledge, devices and software. It is socio-technical. Entrepreneurial innovation is the continuous co-construction and co-creation that results from individual sharing across networks of actors, actions, contexts and resources. It’s an emergent outcome, not a planned or designed outcome. There is no breakthrough action or aha! moment of one R&D lab or one company or one inventor.
The 4 Practices Of Social Media Maestros
Social media maestros (a word that is derived from Italian meaning to orchestrate with others to create a successful collaboration) can bring together different people, who have different expertise, and create a successful venture. They are masters of the 4 practices that the new innovation requires.
Engaging: connecting people who are seeking opportunity to co-create innovation. These people could be designers, thinkers, engineers, inventors, teachers, or parents, or play in any one of a myriad of roles. They have talent and interest in innovation, they want to collaborate and share and develop ideas and projects. Engagement is the practice of expanding the variety of actors and roles in any collaboration to capture new possibilities for novelty.
Exploring: the continuous dynamic of knowledge creation and recombination through shared interaction – knowing and learning together. This is where problem solving occurs, through interconnected creativity, knowledge and competency.
Collaborating: the combination and transformation of knowledge in new contexts, seeking ways to re-use and re-combine knowledge and technologies in new ways. Collaborators modify and extend their concepts into new opportunities, translating knowledge in new ways and developing commercial concepts.
Orchestrating: ensuring, out of all the possibilities, the best flow of actions and resource integration. Orchestrators frame the network of collaborators to promote the most effective linkages and connections, mobilizing individuals to increase their personal empowerment and confidence, while also fostering community level speed and alignment.
So let’s not disparage those engaged in social networking. With these 4 practices, they are leading the world towards a new and more productive form of entrepreneurial innovation.