The headlong flight to social business is accelerating. Management techniques and leadership methods are changing right along. Rather than anything new or novel, the distinct approach is “Back to the Future.” Oh, and it’s way overdue.
Success in social business depends on complex interactions. These interactions inhabit diverse social networks. Ancient human tools allow mastery of these dynamics. They are the modality of social business.
Two new-old modes are getting renewed attention. These are the primordial leadership techniques of storytelling and narrative. Your Colabria Action Research Networks have been advancing them for decades. They are among the best techniques for achieving distributed phronesis.
It’s great inevitable storytelling and narrative are going mainstream. There is a lot written about them from leading thinkers and Colabria alumni, e.g.
The Untapped Potential of Corporate Narratives (Hagel)
Story Telling: An Old Skill in a New Context (Snowden)
It’s good to study and practice the techniques. It is important know the difference between storytelling and narrative. Stories are most often explicit with a known outcome (deterministic); narratives are often tacit with a unknown outcome (non-deterministic).
Of course there are nuances. As a leadership method and for business leaders this distinction is critical. Keep it in mind as you hone your storytelling and narrative techniques. Metaphorically narrative sets the table (context); stories are the meal.
Two other critical and primeval leadership tools are discussion and conversation. The need for attention and skill development is critical. The first lesson is discussion and conversation are different. It’s easy to remember because the key difference is identical to storytelling and narrative.
The root of discuss tells a lot. It comes from Latin – discussus: struck asunder, shaken, scattered, to shake, strike, break apart. The modern root comes from Old French: examination, investigation, legal trial. Today’s meaning of discussion may be to ‘get to the bottom’ of something.
In discussion the outcome is known (deterministic). It is a one-way examination, a probe, an investigation. Thus, the panic that sets in when the boss says, ‘I’d like to discuss something with you,’ is justified. You are being investigated.
The root of conversation is much different. Origins are the same. In Old French conversation is “living together, having dealings with others,” and the “manner of conducting oneself in the world.” The Latin root, conversationem is “to live with,” literally “turn about with” (dance).
In conversation the outcome is unknown (non-deterministic). Conversation is empathetic discovery and exchange. Thus, the joy you feel when the boss asks you, ‘Could you lead the conversation’ is justified. You are valued.
Discussion is usually in a formal office setting, sometime with ‘witnesses.’ Conversation is informal and happens a lot with Yakatori and malt beverages.
To begin understanding the critical importance of conversation visit Conversation Matters by another Colabria alumnus. Narrative and conversation are the principle modalities of Colabria Action Research.
Social business struggles because there are few, if any, authentic conversations. Social business is complex and non-deterministic by definition. Managers tell stories; leaders shape narrative. Managers have discussions; leaders nurture conversation. To succeed and prosper in the future of social business master narrative and conversation.
Social business is about getting Back to the Future to our human origins. The sooner you get back, the sooner you’ll get ahead.