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« Five more ways to delight clients | Main | How do you create sustained high-performance and innovation? »

October 08, 2010


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Robert David Steele

Utterly brilliant. Also ties in with Dr. Jane McGonigal on gaming recognition and with Sugata Mitra on the role of grandmothers as unconditional constant encouragement.

This may be one of your most brilliant and helpful contributions. Cross-posting to Phi Beta Iota the Public Intelligence Blog.

Steve Denning


Glad you liked it. Thanks for the references and the cross-posting.


Rasul Sha'ir


Interesting remarks you made as it pertains to Malcolm’s article. Just like you, I have an immense respect for his work. I would state, though, that in a world of “perspectives” and “opinions” there is no right or wrong. It’s simply your point of view. So your assertion that Malcolm is wrong (and you then go on to state why) is problematic on numerous levels. Additionally he wrote a five-page article sharing his ideas about the lack of connection between new media and activism, aimed at changing the social conditions of certain populations. I think a response to his work should have the same level of effort to it if you really wanted to provide a thorough retort to his viewpoint.

Secondly Malcolm uses numerous examples, quotes, and anecdotes, to support his stance. I would ask where are your illustrations to support your position? In this post your arguments, for the most part, are purely conjecture. You provide very little, if any information, analogies or data to support your assertions.

Also I was a little bit confused. Malcolm spoke about the Iranian protests in 2009, demonstrations in East Germany (that led to the fall of the Berlin Wall) as well as the NAACP civil rights marches as the ecosystems serving as the basis for his ideas on activism. From what I read with your material you’re discussing ideas about being a program director at the World Bank, knowledge management, organizational storytelling and innovation. My question is what is your experience with leading protests (and using social media), which Malcolm spoke about extensively, that would qualify you to say he is wrong and mistaken? If you do have experience (direct, personal or research wise), that shows your intimate understanding of social revolts and what makes them tick…that would be great if you could share.

Steve Denning


Thanks for your comments.

It's true that in my post I am focusing more on the revolution that is needed within organizations, rather than political revolution.

At some point, I plan to write a book on how all this plays out in the political sphere.

At this time, I feel that the more urgent concern is the organizational arena. Having 80% of the global workforce not fully commmitted to their work seems to me a massive human tragedy. Just think of the wasted lives, the dispirited workers!

And in this arena, I do believe that weak ties can make a huge difference in creating the revolution.

Does more need to be said? Of course, and with time, I hope to say it.


Rasul Sha'ir

Hey Steve,

I completely with you. I too believe that their is a burgeoning revolution within the world of work that needs more cultivation, participation and attention paid to it. There IS a shift taking place in the world of social networks that's dramatically impacting the marketplace. My work is in the realm of brand strategy, business development and creative marketing and I am fully engaged in these conversations. Just in participation and listening to talks and discussions with John Seely Brown and John Hagel and their ideas around "The Power of Pull" you see major transformation is afoot.

From where I'm sitting, though, I don'think that Malcolm is saying weak ties, in every arena are ineffective, he's saying they are ineffective as it pertains to the context in which he is speaking - activism as it pertains to social change. Looking at his argument, and the landscape in which he is discussing, I don't think it directly translates to your professional realm. Therefore the rules that apply to your work are a bit different than the ones in which his article is exploring. Like the old saying...apples are being compared to oranges.

I'm a supporter of the work you do around radical management (and storytelling). I'm engaged in the same fight. (I'm just entering the room from a different door). Ideas like yours and others are the present and the future and are needed as you so well know.

Steve, A friend of mine read my post on this subject and recommended that I see your view, too. I'm glad I discovered your blog!

I agree with many of your points but would like to suggest two dissenting angles that I expound upon in my blog.

First, all of your points assume that rational and educated adults are the subjects in questions, i.e.: "No sensible person ever equated friends on Facebook with real friends in person."

That's a pretty big leap. I suggest in my post that among the new generation this very confusion does exist. In fact, I point to research claiming that our youth may be conditioned by "screen saturation" in a way that confuses their Internet experience with reality.

Second, I agree with Rasul's point that there is a big difference between corporate change management and the radical societal change Gladwell specifically pointed to in his article.

It would be hard to disagree that the social web can encourage people to step out or that storytelling can bring people together in new ways. But would it compel them to risk their lives, as Gladwell illustrated through the racism example? I don;t think so, especially if the new generation don't have the basic communication skills to be effective leaders and, more important, followers.

I would welcome comments from you and your readers on my post at

Thanks for the thought-provoking article, Steve.


Steve, thanks for taking such a thoughtful look at this through your leadership lens. Up until now, I've seen this discussed mainly as an online versus offline social action issue, but as you demonstrate, it's much broader than that.

I am also grateful to Gladwell for opening up this can of (whatever) with comparisons and arguments that, more than anything else I've seen him write, begged rebuttal.

I'm a long-time marketing practitioner and as a result a rather inevitable pragmatist about media. It's ironic be characterized along with my co-author, Jennifer Aaker as a Social Media Evangelist for writing The Dragonfly Effect. It makes me think he didn't read past the midpoint of our book where we address The Dark Side of Social Media.

Here's our post on the subject:

The thoughtful discussion that has followed Gladwell's article has reaffirmed my confidence in the social web as not just a place for temporal discourse, but well-considered, diverse thought, too.

I particularly appreciate your insight into the role of storytelling in separating successful from unsuccessful leaders. It's the observation of simple, underutilized tools like these, and the knowledge that putting them all together would result in something powerful and useful that caused us to write The Dragonfly Effect.

Thanks again for expanding the scope of the discourse, Steve.

John Tropea

There is a difference between network productivity and network decision-making

“Although power gets redistributed in a network, the surrounding hierarchy doesn’t actually give up power that matters.
When organizations restructure some units into to networks, they are usually very strategic about what ‘power’ and ‘authority’ is delegated to the network or team.

Networks/teams get more “production-level authority” over who’s doing what within the overall project, what parts of the day are spent where, and the like. But the team or network doesn’t get ‘high level’ decision making authority. This still remains with upper management.”

- CV Harquail

Stan Yanakiev

Great post, Steve!

I would like to comment on these words of you: "Everything in my experience at school and several decades in the workplace had reinforced the idea that analysis was good and narrative was bad. So the idea that storytelling could effective in a rational organization like the World Bank seemed nonsensical."

Well, analysis is attributed to one half of the human brain. If we prefer to use analysis only this means we choose to discard the emotional and intuitive part of intelligence. I often argue with people who think maths is everything. Analysis uses models that are nothing but artificial representation of the world, the way we understand it. This representation can be useful but it may also fail to reflect the world adequately and lead us to big mistakes. We need both analysis and intuition in order to use our intelligence fully.

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