New Section on Internet and Social Capital at Social Capital Gateway

Fabio has launched an new section that highlights only papers that focus on the Internet and Social Capital.

Most of this work has been done over the last few years.

This a great resouce:

http://www.socialcapitalgateway.org/internet.html

Once again, if anyone would like to read and write a review for www.socialcapitalvalueadd.com of any of the papers that you find there, please do not hesitate to contact me.

Crowd Building: 2020 Media Future @ OCAD

Thanks to Walter Derzko for inviting me to join yesterday’s 2020 Media Futures Workshop at the s-Lab (Strategic Innovation Lab) at OCADSuzanne Stein and Greg Van Alstyne did a great job of moderating and facilitating a fairly free wheeling group of thinkers.

It looks like I was the only one using twitter during the workshop or maybe I had the wrong tag? Here are a few thoughts that emerged that could each be turned into a blog post:

  • We think about discontinuity as a threat but the new global success stories will have discontinuity at the heart of a new approach.  Are the incremental gains achieved through “baby steps” and the “go slow”, “fast follower” practices of Canadian business enough to maintain Canada’s position in the world moving forward?  At the moment many are quick to heap praise on the stability of our financial sector.  I remember a few observers noting that growth in Nova Scotia was not effected by the global downturn.  Hmmm. When achieving global success requires embracing discontinuity, what design approaches should we advocate and adopt?
  • How do digital connections qualify/disqualify people for precious face to face time?  Many of us have now experienced the little thrill of having connected with someone online via twitter or a blog exchange and then met them in real life.  As we become more connected, how will the productivity of our face to face time be impacted.  Is it a sign of disrespect if you have not bothered to “google” someone before attending a scheduled meeting with them?
  • Does copyright transform into “identity right”?  Copyright was established to protect the investment and intellectual property of creators for a reasonable time period.  Online is “busting through to reality” (pick up Jesse Schell’s talk on the Future of Gaming at the 10:56mark).  Is the final produced piece of art or software code the point where we need these protections?  When our life stream is “sensed” and iterative design is key to progress, do we need an entirely different set of rights to ensure that individuals have the ability to profit from the digital footprints that they cast off or in other words, how they direct their lives?
  • We must integrate consumers into design & production.  This generalizes to “crowd sourcing” or making sure that we make corporate decisions, not based upon the smartest person sitting at the table at that moment, but based upon having the smartest thinking anywhere available at the table for the moment of the decision.  It is the kind of motive behind the idea for a Seedling Prediction Market that initially drew me into MDes’ (i.e. Masters of Design in Strategic Foresight and Innovation) orbit. This is not really a question for 2020.  I think it is a question that we need to be answering right now to maintain Ontario/Canada’s position in the world.
  • So some “Crowd Building” related design thinking …
  • MIT Tech TV

SCVA in Government: The Value Proposition for Gov 2.0

While SCVA is a corporate valuation and management method, its principals equally apply to government, health care, education and beyond.  All of our traditional institutions are being re-architected around broadband empowered individuals.

Last week I hosted a discussion about how to advocate for the adoption of more productive government that utilizes the full potential of the internet at GovCamp Toronto.  Thank you to Julia Stowell, Omar Rashid and Mark Kuznicki for inviting about 125 of us across the community to come together.

There was great representation from the City of TorontoHere is a shot of city CIO Dave Wallace sitting beside me while I invited participants to join in my discussion thread:

The Value Proposition for Gov 2.0: Outsourcing Risk

The description:

Governments are risk averse . Traditionally there has been very little upside potential for those involved in public service to attack something out of the ordinary. Change is methodical, reactionary – made by attrition. This is the world of late adoptors.

This is a difficult mode for coping with the complex problems of our times and rapid change required to embrace Gov 2.0 (if we would would like to, for example, take advantage of moments of change to maintain or improve Canada’s position in the world).

Perhaps there is an appeal in the prospect of open data?

Governments are the custodians and regulators and third parties are the innovators and risk takers. Whatever works governments can follow and the essential experiments that turn out to be learning experiences will be played out with the investment of third parties, not tax payers.

Are any of these assumptions true? What is the right language to frame these dynamics in terms acceptable to everyone involved?

The session was an opportunity to continue the conversation along these lines that have evolved as a consistent theme for me since the first ChangeCamp.

I had great exchanges with about a dozen different open gov enthusiasts from across government.  I feel comfortable in reporting that yes, this notion that embracing Gov 2.0 as a risk averse strategy, has the potential to resonate within bureaucratic and political circles.  It could be part of messaging that will appeal to late adopters and perhaps get those first trials off of the ground.

What’s next? Was the question that we bounced around the room to wrap up the three hour unconference.

Here are the additional thoughts that emerged at our table:

1. “We have a full plate.” or “We just do not have resources to try that.” These are likely the number one kind of objection that you will hear across departments.  Listen carefully.

Gov 2.0 offers the promise of solutions that share and scale.  Most often, Gov 2.0 is not about adding new lines of service, it is about doing the same things in different, more productive ways.  In most cases, it would be a waste of resources to roll out another year of doing the same old thing without looking for ways to incorporate the internet into routines.

What you may be hearing is code for, “We don’t know how.”, “That sounds risky.”, “We don’t get rewarded for taking on things that are new.”.

2. In his opening comments David Eaves pointed out, there is a long history and many cases where governments have committed to a policy of transparency and/or public reporting in Canada.  Perhaps the #govcamp community can make an effort to examine the decisions that were made to release data and become more transparent in the past, note the reasons why and look for opportunities to apply that rationale to convince governments to apply it in new areas.

3. Tabling an ill considered RFP can be a public relations disaster for government.  Opening up the development of the RFP can help reduce this risk and lead to more progressive ideas being incorporated into governments’ competitive processes.

4. A few times our discussion came back to the need for boiler plate policy and guidelines that can be adopted across government.  We talked about why it is unlikely that anything like Obama’s Memorandum on Transparency will materialize in Canada in the immediate future and there was some enthusiasm that the #govcamp community could lead the development of expectations through the creation of open source guidelines, similar to the resources developed in corporate American by the Social Media Business Council.

Social Capital Value Add in Health Care: Mom’s Losing Battle with Cancer

The principals of Social Capital Value Add have wide application and I think that the health care sector, due to a combination of necessity and opportunity, is going to experience some remarkable changes.

As many close to me know, I dedicated as much time as possible last year to support my Mother (and my Dad) through her losing battle with lung cancer.

It was an eye opening experience.

(Side note: It was also the reason why blogging here was scarce & my personal investment in the development of SCVA has been put on the back burner.)

How little we really know.

How, despite noble intentions, the health care system we experienced ultimately leaves the patient and family responsible for managing care or at least they need to be their own champions in the positioning for limited resources and attention to detail.

I am sure that you can imagine how I felt about the inefficiencies of simple information sharing across nursing shifts.  Now consider this against the backdrop of governments banning use of social media in the workplace and more critically, the possibility of having real time, universal authorized access to all patient information across several hospitals, doctors’ offices, diagnostic and treatment centres.

In truth, outcomes for my Mother would not likely have been dramatically different.  We do not have a cure for cancer.  Through a lot of old fashioned community support, everyone pulled together and I feel she received excellent treatment.  For that I am very grateful to everyone involved.

Nevertheless, it is obvious that as the we try to attend to more people with limited resources there are going to be completely new methods or increasingly gaping failures of our health care system.

I would encourage everyone to take time out to watch this video of Canada’s perennial tech talk master, Don Tapscott.  It was my Mom who way back when gave me Don’s first book, Paradigm Shift as a Christmas gift and in a way turned me on to all this “junk”.  It is the first time that he presented the key ideas from his forthcoming book, “MacroWikinomics“.

In particular, I suggest that those of you who are interested in learning more about the change unfolding within the health care sector pick up Don’s talk at the 52:00 mark.  He opens by describing the health care system as the number three killer in the United States.  He then goes on to describe a collaborative health care system. He finishes with health care at 59:50.

It is an eight minute vision of how health care is going to change.  Must change.

Key elements:

1. Patients get to engage in rich communities related to their health. Isolation is a risk factor.

For more insight on this you should check out Dr. Nicholas Christakis’ 2010 TedTalk on how social networks shape our lives or his book Connected.

2. Idea whose time has come: When you are born the system opens up a web page for you that is sort of like a Facebook for healthcare … half healthcare file and half social network.

3. These health care networks will generate massive amounts of new data to aid the advancement of science and treatment.

4. Healthcare workers (doctors & nurses) engage in communities in a new way.  Less parochial.  To enable this you would need to solve the threat of litigation.  Patients become active and accountable for their health care and they will be very willing to do so.  Being involved is part of getting better.

The example that Don gives: http://www.patientslikeme.com.

The example that I have mentioned while teaching classes or leading workshops is Upopolis at Sick Kids Hospital.

Intel Fellow Eric Dishman has another great health care TedTalk that is well worth watching here.

Read these papers & review for SCVA?

Thanks to Fabio Sabatini who is himself a social capital gateway.

I have not found the time to manage to even read the abstracts below, but I have lifted the titles from Fabio’s newletter below that I would love to read and write about.  Maybe you have a few cycles to cover one?

NEP: New Economics Papers
Social Norms and Social Capital

Edited by: Fabio Sabatini
University of Siena
Issue date: 2010-04-24
Papers: 10
Note: Access to full contents may be restricted.
NEP is sponsored by SUNY Oswego.

In this issue we have:

  1. A trust-driven financial crisis. Implications for the future of financial markets
    Luigi Guiso
  2. Civic Capital as the Missing Link
    Luigi Guiso; Paola Sapienza; Luigi Zingales
  3. Ideological Segregation Online and Offline
    Matthew Gentzkow; Jesse M. Shapiro
  4. The Economic Value of Virtue
    Mariani, Fabio
  5. The Causes of Corruption: Evidence from China
    Bin Dong; Benno Torgler
  6. Leader-Member Exchange, Communication Frequency and Burnout
    Leslie N. Graham; Arjen van Witteloostuijn
  7. Corporate Social Responsibility and Corporate Financial Performance: Evidence from Korea
    Choi, Jong-Seo; Kwak, Young-Min; Choe, Chongwoo

Contents.

  1. Date: 2010
    By: Luigi Guiso
    URL: http://d.repec.org/n?u=RePEc:eui:euiwps:eco2010/07&r=soc
    The financial crisis has brought to light diffuse opportunistic behaviour and some serious frauds.Because of this trust towards banks, bankers, brokers and the stock market has collapsed to unprecedented levels and there are so far no signs of recovery. This paper uses survey-based information to document the collapse of trust, show its link to the emergence of frauds in the financial industry and discuss its consequences for the demand of financial instruments, investors portfolios and more generally investors reliance on financial markets. It argues that unless serious changes happen in the behaviour of the financial industry, the move towards safer portfolios and away from ambiguous securities that lack of trust entails, will have adverse effects on the availability and cost of equity financing. Accordingly a number of proposals to restore trust are discussed. Their common feature is to restore trust – a belief – by limiting the scope for opportunistic behaviour through a transfer of power from financial intermediaries to investors.
  2. Date: 2010
    By: Luigi Guiso
    Paola Sapienza
    Luigi Zingales
    URL: http://d.repec.org/n?u=RePEc:eui:euiwps:eco2010/08&r=soc
    This chapter reviews the recent debate about the role of social capital in economics. We argue that all the difficulties this concept has encountered in economics are due to a vague and excessively broad definition. For this reason, we restrict social capital to the set of values and beliefs that help cooperation—which for clarity we label civic capital. We argue that this definition differentiates social capital from human capital and satisfies the properties of the standard notion of capital. We then argue that civic capital can explain why differences in economic performance persist over centuries and discuss how the effect of civic capital can be distinguished empirically from other variables that affect economic performance and its persistence, including institutions and geography.
  3. Date: 2010-04
    By: Matthew Gentzkow
    Jesse M. Shapiro
    URL: http://d.repec.org/n?u=RePEc:nbr:nberwo:15916&r=soc
    We use individual and aggregate data to ask how the Internet is changing the ideological segregation of the American electorate. Focusing on online news consumption, offline news consumption, and face-to-face social interactions, we define ideological segregation in each domain using standard indices from the literature on racial segregation. We find that ideological segregation of online news consumption is low in absolute terms, higher than the segregation of most offline news consumption, and significantly lower than the segregation of face-to-face interactions with neighbors, co-workers, or family members. We find no evidence that the Internet is becoming more segregated over time.
    JEL: D83
  4. Date: 2010-04
    By: Mariani, Fabio (Université Catholique de Louvain)
    URL: http://d.repec.org/n?u=RePEc:iza:izadps:dp4875&r=soc
    Virtue is modeled as an asset that women can use in the marriage market: since men value virginity in prospective mates, preserving her virtue increases a woman’s chances of marrying a high-status husband, and therefore allows for upward social mobility. Consistent with some historical and anthropological evidence, we find that the prevalence (and the value) of virginity, across societies and over time, can be influenced by socio-economic factors such as male income inequality, gender differences, social status and stratification, and overall economic development.
    Keywords: mating, marriage, cultural values, social classes, gender
    JEL: D1
  5. Date: 2010-03-25
    By: Bin Dong (QUT)
    Benno Torgler (QUT)
    URL: http://d.repec.org/n?u=RePEc:qut:dpaper:257&r=soc
    In this study we explore in detail the causes of corruption in China using two different sets of data at the regional level (provinces and cities). We observe that regions with more anti-corruption efforts, histories of British rule, higher openness, more access to media and relatively higher wages of government employees are markedly less corrupt; while social heterogeneity, regulation, abundance of resource and state-owned enterprises substantially breed regional corruption. Moreover, fiscal decentralization is discovered to depress corruption significantly, while administrative decentralization fosters local corruption. We also find that there is currently a positive relationship between corruption and economic development in China that is mainly driven by the transition to a market economy.
    Keywords: Corruption; China; Government; Decentralization; Deterrence; Social Heterogenity
    JEL: D73
  6. Date: 2010-04
    By: Leslie N. Graham
    Arjen van Witteloostuijn
    URL: http://d.repec.org/n?u=RePEc:use:tkiwps:1008&r=soc
    In a field study of 128 middle-managers in similar roles but in different organizations within the UK public sector, we find that the quality of their leadermember exchange (LMX) relationship with their immediate supervisor is negatively related to the three dimensions of burnout. As hypothesized, LMX and communication frequency are found to interact in the prediction of emotional exhaustion. For low-quality LMX, the relationship between communication frequency and emotional exhaustion is positive with an increasingly steep upward slope as communication frequency increases. For high-quality LMX, the relationship is not as expected, but is curvilinear with an inverted U-shape. The findings support the importance of the social context of the workplace for the development and persistence of burnout. The results indicate that the quality of the relationship between employees and their manager in combination with the nature and the frequency of their interpersonal interactions are important factors for employee wellbeing. Furthermore, the study contributes to the literature on LMX by providing further support for the importance of LMX being dependent on how frequently employees and managers interact for a new and very important outcome of emotional exhaustion.
    Keywords: Leader-Member Exchange (LMX), Communication Frequency, Burnout
  7. Date: 2010-04-17
    By: Choi, Jong-Seo
    Kwak, Young-Min
    Choe, Chongwoo
    URL: http://d.repec.org/n?u=RePEc:pra:mprapa:22159&r=soc
    This paper studies the empirical relation between corporate social responsibility (CSR) and corporate financial performance in Korea using a sample of 1122 firm-years during 2002-2008. We measure corporate social responsibility by both an equal-weighted CSR index and a stakeholder-weighted CSR index suggested by Akpinar et al. (2008). Corporate financial performance is measured by ROE, ROA and Tobin’s Q. We find a positive and significant relation between corporate financial performance and the stakeholder-weighted CSR index, but not the equal-weighted CSR index. This finding is robust to alternative model specifications and several additional tests, providing evidence in support of instrumental stakeholder theory.
    Keywords: corporate social responsibility; corporate financial performance; KEJI index; instrumental stakeholder theory
    JEL: M14

This nep–soc issue is ©2010 by Fabio Sabatini. It is provided as is without any express or implied warranty. It may be freely redistributed in whole or in part for any purpose. If distributed in part, it must include this copyright notice. It may not be sold, or placed in something else for sale.
General information on the NEP project can be found at http://nep.repec.org/. For comments please write to the director of NEP, Marco Novarese at < director @ nep point repec point org >.

Attention-Art-Social Capital: Understanding Value

Yvette Dubel has made a permanent disciple out of me with this amazing video about the shift in value that I describe as Social Capital Value Add.  Take 4:20 and watch this video.  Then share it.  It could be the most valuable 4:20 minutes of business advice that you will ever give to someone.

Yvette does not hammer on the relationship between shared perception, social capital and margins in my crass way and there is more of a media focus in the video than underscoring the social network as a primary factor of production.  But the video is spot on highlighting the connection between attention, social values and sustainable profits.

Yvette will invade your thinking with this video that has a wisp of everything that I have tried to relate at this blog, in the ebook and over at www.memeticbrand.com.

Wow Yvette!  I love it!

Review of Social Capital Value Add by Dima Dimitrova

Back in May, I introduced Dr. Dima Dimitrova on this blog and mentioned that I am “quite confident at this point that there is no one who has given Social Capital Value Add more thorough, qualified consideration than Dima”.

Now Dima has shared her thorough review of Social Capital Value Add.  Thank you!

In the process, you can get a very good summary of the SCVA arguement, including some criticisms that have me back at the drawing board in some ways.  I am not throwing the baby out with with the bath water, but it is already clear that the research and development that we would like to do to advance Social Capital Value Add will be much better rounded with Dima around.  We need an authentic academic talent on hand to keep my instinctive leaps from silo to silo in check.

I look forward to your additions to Dr. Dimitrova’s review.  Once I have a chance to refocus, I will come back here with my thoughts on the criticisms.

Dimitrova – Review of Cailey" Social Capital Value Add

7 Conditions for Creating Social Capital … Unanticipated Gains book review

Thank you to Sam Ladner, PhD for this! Pay attention to the list of factors ….

Book Review

Small, Mario Luis. 2009. Unanticipated Gains: Origins Of Network Inequality In Everday Life. New York: Oxford University Press.

Reviewed by Sam Ladner, PhD

Can organizations create social capital? Recent research says yes, but such ability comes from an expected place: daycare centres. In his book Unanticipated Gains, sociologist Mario Luis Small comes close to revolutionizing scholarship on social networks and social capital by arguing the daycare centres exemplify the best kind of organization to nurture social capital for its members.

Small investigates whether childcare centres are “effective brokers” of social capital. Social capital refers to the social connections and capabilities people can draw upon. Social capital can include a network of alumni from a prestigious university or knowing which fork to use at the dinner table. Small argues that social capital theorists James Coleman and Nan Lin view involvement in social networks solely as “investments” chosen by rational actors. He even argues that Pierre Bourdieu, the French founder of the term “social capital,” undertheorizes the structural aspects of network membership.

In other words, Small argues that social network theorists have, to date, underestimated the effects of belonging to organizations or institutions when it comes to developing social capital. This represents an opportunity for scholarship. Small argues that actors get involved in networks in particular ways that are structured by the organizations themselves. What are the effects of organizational involvement on social capital? And how can organizations nurture the development of social capital?

Small employs qualitative and quantitative methods to answer this question. He finds broad evidence that using local childcare centres does improve women’s self-reported well being, and he goes on to find out more through in-depth interviewing and ethnography of childcare centres in various neighbourhoods in New York City. Small finds 7 key characteristics for what constitutes an “effective broker” of social capital, or the process by which an individual is connected to another individual or organization.

His findings are somewhat surprising. Social capital is best formed when these 7 conditions are fulfilled.

1.      There are frequent opportunities for interaction. Daycare centres have frequent opportunities for women (and some men) to meet each other.

2.      These interactions are regular. It’s not enough to have frequent interactions; they must be organized around regular and predictable time schedules, such as picking up the children everyday at 6 p.m.

3.      Interactions must be long lasting. Picking up the children was not enough either. Parents who earned the most social capital were those that spent longer periods of time, such as going on field trips, with other parents.

4.      Interactions are minimally competitive. Parents gathering together to plan Christmas parties for their children earned social capital, in part because they were not in competition with others.

5.      Interactions are maximally cooperative. Many of these parents were required to work collaboratively to organize the children’s social events. This collaborative requirement made it possible for parents to learn more about each other.

6.      Interactions involve motivations internal to the organization to maintain these ties. Interactions that were not directly related to daycare business were not as effective in bulding social capital, in part because there was extra social “work” parents would have to do to maintain ties with other parents.

7.      Interactions must involve external motivations to maintain these ties.  Parents who found external motivations, as well as motivations intrinsic to the childcare centre, we more likely to have ties to other parents and other organizations.

Small’s book is not a compelling read. There is a not-so-subtle wonkishness about its depth of methodological detail and engagement with theoretical debates. This should not be too surprising, given Small’s stated purpose of moving social network theory forward. Those interested in social capital would do well to tough out the details, however, for they will find insights about how to develop and nurture social capital through organizational design. Social capital is not finite; Small shows effectively that it can indeed be built.

About Sam Ladner

Sam Ladner currently runs her own firm, Copernicus Consulting Group. She specializes in uncovering insights for organizations designing products, services, or processes. She holds a PhD in sociology from York University. She blogs at http://designresearch.wordpress.com

Introducing Dr. Dima Dimitrova

In February, Dr. Barry Wellman introduced me to a colleague from his Netlab at the University of Toronto.

Dr. Dimitrina (Dima) Dimitrova has extensive research experience, which includes evaluation research and project management engagements.

Her areas of expertise are social networks, workplace and technology. She was the Principal investigator of the NetMap consulting project, which examined the social network and collaboration practices of researchers and partners of the Canadian Water Network. Here is one of her presentations on this work:

Her doctoral research “The Telework Mosaic (University of Toronto, 2002)” focused on the social implications of new technologies for social networks and new forms of workplace arrangements.  As well, she has conducted research in the areas of diversity, health care, and industrial relations.

She is active at scholarly conferences, presenting and organizing several sessions, peer review work, and in community research. Her latest publication is a co-authored chapter on Virtual Communities of Practice. Other research findings have been published, as co-author or independently written work, in the US, Austria, Britain, Norway, Italy, Russia, and Bulgaria.

Dima is currently teaching at York University and working on a paper on the use of social capital in collaborative research. She is a member of NetLab, a social network group at the University of Toronto led by Barry, who is a leading authority in social network research and theory and a founder of the International Network of Social Network Analysts.

In the weeks since meeting, Dima and I have met several times.  At the second meeting she showed up with a printed copy of my ebook that had so many highlighter marks and post it notes attached to it, I needed to pull out a copy myself just to remember how to answer all of her diligent, expert questions.

While the ebook has been viewed well over 10,000 times now, downloaded more than 1,500 times, featured by Scribd, marked as a favourite by about 60 Scribd users, “liked” by about 30 more and Olav Sorenson has given it a thorough read … I am quite confident at this point that there is no one who has given Social Capital Value Add more thorough, qualified consideration than Dima.

We have crafted a proposal to test the Social Capital Value Add approach in a precedent set of Fortune 100 companies.  If your company would like participate in this research & development program or financially support the design phase of the program please contact me.

This will be an initiative that will help define corporate management methods designed for the network era on a scale equal to similar work by MIT and IBM.


IBM MIT Virtuous Cycle IBM MIT Virtuous Cycle Michael Cayley IBM is working with MIT to define management methods designed for the network era. In the past we have not been able to see how these kinds of efforts have a direct impact investor’s perception.

SCVA research & development program is a similar opportunity for 3 to 5 companies.

Whuffie? As long as the dog fetches the bone.

Last month I met up with Tara Hunt at the Drake Hotel in Toronto.  Tara was in town for business for Intuit, had her friend’s wedding mixed in and the pending launch of her book.  It was nice that we had enough one on one time for a pint and some of that amazing food at the Drake.

Last week a signed copy of Tara’s new book, The Whuffie Factor, showed up in my mail box.  That is appreciated all the more because I know Tara probably had to personally buy and ship this copy.  I heard the whole story about how she and her publisher were having the Duncan Watts influencer sminfluencer debate about how to spread the word.

Tara Hunt is a case study on personal branding.  I should know because I have included her case in the course outline for the first year social media course at Humber’s new BA-PR program.  Through a combination of personal risk taking, hard work, experience, intuition and smarts Tara has arrived at the intersection of business, social media, social capital and community with a quality contribution.

The Whuffie Factor is not only a compilation of Tara’s own experience.  It pulls together hundreds of headline stories that we are seeing all around us about companies like Dell, Twitter, Threadless, Vonage, 37Signals, PayPerPost, Last.fm and brings them into focus with a critical eye, in terms that are designed for everyone.

A pint at the Drake

A pint at the Drake

From time to time I have found myself defending the “Whuffie” approach on Twitter and in blog comments.  The basic arguments that I have seen against the term “Whuffie” come from a couple of directions.  Firstly, there are more buttoned down business types who think that “Whuffie” is a term that won’t cut it in the boardroom.

I bet there are more Boardrooms within 100 km of Tara’s house that would be down with the Whuffie than there are stodgy ones.  Even the old boys will tune in when it comes to making Whuffie (unfortunately for all the wrong reasons).

Then there are the academics and intellectual “knowledge management” types who go to great lengths to carefully choose the words that they want to associate with.  In academic circles, I have come to understand that this is a fairly big concern.  I have noticed that even the term “social capital”, where there is an academic tradition to build upon, has been steered around by some for a variety of reasons.  I have virtually stopped following one google group where I respect the knowledge and experience of the members because it seems that more than half of the dialogue is an attack on this way of describing management or that way of describing a community.  Even the value of profit comes under attack.

I recognize that different words are useful for different applications.  I think that we are living through a time where we are still coming to understand our networks as the primary factor of production.  As common understanding evolves, meaning will build behind certain words.  Some will emerge as the dominant labels some won’t.

I also have made it clear that a “conversation” that is designed for everyone needs to be complimented with terms that are designed for investors and senior level managers.  As Tara points out in the book, “Who are metrics for then?  Investors.  Journalists.  Outsiders.  People who want a number to tell the whole story because they are not part of the community itself and it is really hard to explain the impact of a great community to an outsider.” (p. 237)

Personally, I think that the terms “Whuffie” and “Social Capital Value Add” each have memetic qualities because they both come from fertile idea habitats (to borrow a concept from the work of Chip Heath & Jonah Berger, see p. 20 of my ebook).  But that is another post.

I usually conclude my defense of “Whuffie” with a one liner, “It doesn’t matter what you call the dog, as long as it fetches the bone.”

In 1979, Deng Xiaoping put to rest ideological naval gazing in China with a simple phase:

“It doesn’t matter if a cat is white or yellow, as long as it can catch mice.”

There was no mistaking the common mission of the people of China while I lived there from 1995 to 2000.  In fact since 1979, China has averaged growth rates in the 10% neighborhood.  How much does it matter that most people think that he used the word “white” instead of “yellow”?

America has the opportunity to unleash a new era of healthy, sustainable growth from break throughs in productivity and innovation made possible by management methods designed for the network age.

During a period of phenomenal change, I think it is best not to take issue with words or symbols that may seem fleeting from deep in the silo of your particular area of expertise.

In a Beginner’s Mind there are many possibilities.  In an expert’s mind there are few.

Whuffie is involved.  That is indisputable.  Let’s catch mice, dog.