We’ve all been struck by the lightening fast pace at which technology keeps changing. Facebook’s evolution is the latest case in point. Brian Solis calls this “Digital Darwinism”, and his recent post on the subject is quite provocative.
Sometimes it’s difficult to foresee the change is coming, let alone prepare to adapt to the change until it’s too late to do anything strategic or proactive. So we tend to just react; that usually does not stand us in good stead. Solis notes: “recognizing the difference between emerging and disruptive technology and measuring its impact on your business, customer relationships, and products is a necessary discipline to successfully evolve… ” Find Brian’s original post here.
I love this notion of distinguishing between technology that is emerging, and potentially useful, and technology that just gets in our way. There’s a lot of noise out there. With so many technology choices, it’s tempting to either pick too many or pick none at all. In fact, there is a whole body of research in consumer psychology that confirms people are apt to become deer in the headlights when confronted with too much choice. It’s called analysis paralysis . Or, the paradox of choice.
Do you feel like a deer in the headlights when trying to figure out your social media plan? It’s no wonder. As consumers, people used to communicate with each other by one landline telephone and the U.S. postal service. People got their news from the daily local newspaper (everyone read the same one) and the nightly news. That was it. Period. Folks didn’t have to check email, text messages, several different online news services, Facebook, Linkedin, Twitter, blogs, etc., etc., etc. With new apps and new social media platforms arriving every day, people today are faced with an explosion of choices that leaves little opportunity to be unconnected.
Marketers used to have a defined number of communication choices. So it was easy to plan strategy. Now, it’s not so easy. And even if you manage to overcome your paralysis and make a choice, there’s a tendency to be dissatisfied with your choices. So, you’re never sure you’ve landed on the right plan. It’s easy to keep imagining one of the alternatives you haven’t chosen could be yielding better results (and that’s if you even have figured out a useful way to measure results). Plus, a corollary of the explosion of technology choices with which people today are faced is the explosion of expectations regarding how good your results should be.
There seems to be no excuse for failure when there are so many tools with which to potentially succeed. Psychologist Barry Schwartz gives a great TED talk on this topic, ending up with the conclusion: “The secret to happiness is low expectations.” He points out that fish are better off in a fishbowl than outside of it. If you smash the bowl, seemingly “freeing” them, they have less chance to be successful. They will fail to thrive. They, and we, need the structure of a fishbowl in order to truly thrive.
What’s your purpose in upgrading (or downgrading) to a different structure? Are you just doing it because your neighbor did it? Or because you read an article about this being the newest/greatest/fanciest/hippest thing to do, so you think you should do it too if you want to be the coolest kid on the block?There is no single answer to these questions. The key is just to be asking the questions. Go back to the tried-and-true SWOT analysis, and take a look at what your opportunities are. Where can you be the most transformative and innovative? What is your special niche for being relevant to your constituents? Nonprofits today need to be disciplined in creating communication strategies in this era of endless, rapid change. If not, you’ll find yourself like paralyzed deer or dead fish.