Social Media Failure

Colabria Yogi It is disappointing to still hear the near-religious advocacy of ‘engineering processes’ for knowledge, knowledge management (KM) and, most recently, social media. All the ridiculous pap on social media processes, metrics and ROI can be summarized by the Great Number 8 of the New York Yankees, “It’s déjà vu all over again.”  

Sick Sigma Applying engineering principles to social media is preposterous. One large, respected engineering firm, facing a significant KM problem, actually applied 6-Sigma. It was more than a painful farce. It was very expensive, totally ineffective and was completely abandoned after several years. The same mindset is lurking out there. One inane remark, actually made at the start of the program by the senior executive went as follows, “We’re going to throw MBAs at the problem.” Enough said. Beware.

Please, please read “The Death of Social Media ROI.”

Ironically, the very people charged with change management and innovation, are so inelastic they simply reject contemporary, effective and proven practices. Even when their sacred cows of process engineering lead them to consistent, well-document failure, they hold on. Clearly the linear, mechanical, order-systems of conventional efforts account for the widely reported 70-80% of KM projects being challenged or outright failures. Expect the same for ALL complex efforts, particularly social media.

Furthermore, it common for people holding these problematic opinions and outlooks to shoot-the-messenger. Beware again.

Fortunately, other respected voices are finally speaking up. Hopefully the multi-modal messages concerning the broad-based failure of process-oriented management will create the critical-mass necessary to defeat the difficult process-based inertia in the social media field. Here is a good manifesto.

Why Do Great KM Programs Fail?

This help and guidance is provided hopefully and authentically to give some much needed uplift. It is important to rise up, up and out of the late 20th Century Taylorism and Fordist process thinking and practice. It  is so painfully obvious this legacy is creeping into social media. The simple goal is to raise the level of social media discourse to at least accepted 2013 practices.

The main barrier seems to be is the struggle to accept that modern productivity and innovation, are social, complex and holistic. KM and social media must focus on the future. This key leadership behavior is scarce and precious. We’ve learned over decades that leadership is not for everybody.

The most glaring example is the Newtonian archetype of beloved analytic reductionism and BPR. They have failed completely for KM and are failing for social media. Sadly, take away process mental models and rigid metrics from practitioners and you are left with a blubbering mass of protoplasm.

Responsible leadership has adopted social networks, complexity science and whole-system comprehension. Thing is you cannot evolve this leadership from legitimate, honorable and essential disciplines of document management or library science or process engineering. There is just too much hubris.

Rather, you must wall-off these processes and fully embrace networks, complexity and enterprise ecologies. Most people and organizations do not make the transformation deliberately. Rather, they slowly, steadily and sometimes covertly reveal themselves. This is often in spite of the specious organizational structure and corrupt managers. Social media metrics do not help these key activities.

Again, they most profound and prosperous network structures are manifest in the organization’s kinetic relationships with its environment and with itself. For innovation to flourish, it naturally casts off useless artifacts like boundaries, hierarchy and the bogus processes that you defend so dearly.

The success of complex adaptive systems like social media is predicated on relentless and unrestricted interaction with itself and its surrounding environment. In fact, this is the only way the properties of complex systems like social media reveal and express themselves. Successful social media specifically reject the bureaucratic structures in favor or organic networks. Please, please forget about social media metrics. They’re a bust.

Colabria World SeriesIt is important to take some time to reconsider all the process engineering happy talk that hurts and destroys so much, everything in social media, KM, innovation and productivity. As you watch the World Series, remember to heed to the advice of the Great Number 8. Just pick one, they’re all apropos to KM and social media.

  • “It ain’t over ‘till it’s over.”
  • “You can observe a lot by watching.”
  • “The future ain’t what it used to be.”


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