In a recent interview for the BBC, Tony Blair’s outgoing strategy advisor brings up a few good points on how the Internet is fueling a crisis between politicians and its citizenry. Many of his points are actually valid for the world of business as well.
Too often he says, the web is “used to encourage the “shrill discourse of demands”.” What he would rather see is “more needs to be done by the web community in general to encourage people to use the Internet to “solve problems” rather than simply abuse politicians or make “incommensurate” demands on them.” Talking about the immaturity of the whole environment he said “”We have a citizenry which can be caricatured as being increasingly unwilling to be governed but not yet capable of self-government,” and further comparing the citizenry to teenagers he said “Like “teenagers”, people were demanding, but “conflicted” about what they actually wanted, he argued.”
Social media empowers people to “speak up” and “make demands.” It can also be used to leverage collective intelligence to “solve problems.” Yet the tendency at this stage is for people to whine more than to collaborate on constructive problem solving. This can perhaps be explained by the fact that the dominating tool in the new social media toolkit is the blog, which works better as a single person or small group mouth/shout piece than as a true collaborative environment. Sure, blogs are well suited for conversations or raging debates, but that is not how one typically solves problems. Wiki’s are more appropriate, but still limited to a very small segment of the population – too insignificant to truly act as an empowering environment for community based problem solving and self-governance.
So maybe that is what we could expect from social media 2.0 – a set of rich and intuitive collaborative environments that enables groups of people to spontaneously congregate and collaborate on helping others to solve problems, whether they’d be socio-political problems or problems related to their favorite brands.
Some interesting experiments in developing collective problem solving environments are already underway – such as the Community Wiki, where Keith Hopper discussed the same BBC interview and suggests a few actual projects projects to tackle as a group.