The Future of Being Social – From #SMWLDN 2012

By Adam TinworthPosted September 28, 2012

In Association with

Havas Worldwide London





Alan Moore

Alan Moore

We stand at the adaptive edge of our industrial society. The mechanical society has done some damage to us in various ways. We’re witnessing the life and death of two ecosystems. We’re moving from the linear world to the non-linear world. How do we design better for our society and organisations, and be commercially vibrant at the same time?

Also, what makes us human beings? How do we as humanity get on better with each other and make a better world? How do we create a human OS? We’re very resilient – when we see institutional failure happen, we adapt. We want more freedom, opportunity and empowerment. We want a world were diversity is celebrated. Nature is, by default, an open, diverse platform. Our industrial world has reduced it to a monosystem. And we want the world to be more beautiful: beautiful code, organisations, systems.

In England, we’re a population of around 65m. 10% of that population have no access to credit or bank accounts. They have no choice – they go to a payday lender, or If you have £20 in your hand, do you give it to the housing association to pay your rent, or to the payday lender with his 2000% interest? A friend of mine has brought the concepts of microcredit back from India – the human operating system giving people a better life. Patients Know Best – it encourages patients and doctors to learn together, to reduce misdiagnosis and queues in surgeries. Ushahidi – a system for co-ordinating disaster relief.

The future of social is not a discussion about SEO – it’s about spotting the opportunity that every one of us should aspire to.

David Cushman

David Cushman – 90:10 Group: Traditional thinking about digital technolgy in the cabinet office was channel management – reducing the costs of social security. We started batting around the idea of bringing people together to share their experiences and ideas, and getting the government to give some redundancy support in the form of funds to launch businesses.

Anthony Edwards – Havas: All the brands we work with recognise that the world is changing – but the machinery that keeps people in jobs need some attention. Traditional marketing is about low engement – the future model has to be about high engagement processes.

Lee Bryant – Dachis Group: The key phrase is “the human operating system”. Everything that happens is because a group of people got together to solve a problem they have a stake in. Contrast that with the 20th Century model when government sits centrally, spending vast amounts of money researching and communicating. Using social technology you can do more far more cost effectively – and the same’s true for business. You have hard walls around your business, and controlling systems, based on the fact that consumer and employees don’t care. Compare that with startups where people come in early and leave late because they care. This can reduce costs, and also wake up people who are trapped eating biscuits and bitching in battery cage offices, and allow them to find beauty in their work. The dabbling we’ve done with tools is just the beginning. When they fade into the background, that’s when then things get interesting. The future of being social is when we stop taking about social. We’re obsessed with the language because we’re at an inflection point, where the future and past exists at the same time.

DK Matai

DK Mataimi2g: I was very struck by Bob Diamond’s interview when the government was invetsigating the LIBOR issue. Every two minutes he said “I love Barclays” – as if he was trying to subliminally influence the country that he can’t be bad because he loves his company. He was hoist by his own petard, because he dodn’t knwo about the founding principles the Quaker family who founded the bank imbued it with.

Truth, Transparency and the enabling power of Technology – three “T”s.  The cosy reationships between the arbiters of media and the government – their special role in communicating an agreed truth, decided behind closed doors has been exposed. We’re dealing with the full impact of that change. Danny Boyle’s opening ceremony for the Olympics was great – it showed how we moved from the agricultural age to the industrial age. Then, after the wars, we moved to the Information Age. We’re now in the Dumb Age – self-cannibalisation has been a rampant part of making a profit. Destroy the countryside to make a profit? Fine, if GDP is going up! The whole mantra of GDP growth as a measure of happiness is flawed. We are the meeting of intellect, spiritual and our physical beings. We thrive on relationships. And we’re now in the Conceptual Age. It’s primarily about the left brain and the right brain working together – bringing a balance to society. A redistribution that truth, transparency and technology will bring us!

LB: It’s very easy when you reach the pinnacle of a highly-developed society to reflect that we should slow down growth. In Turkey or India we have an exploding population of young, talented people who want exactly what we do. I don’t want to feel that we’re sitting on the top of the pile, and saying we shouldn’t grow to meet the expectations of those people. Business can be powerful and solve problems – it can create something from nothing. There is such potential in business. The route to solutions is often not idiotic bureaucrats or ineffective well-meaning volunteers but in businesses.

DC: The web creates the conditions for people to self-organise. It reveals how connected we really are. A company harming our futures can be exposed really fast – and we can organise ourselves around the solutions that are the best fit for our needs. It’s lowers the cost of action. We are all connected – at a DNA level.

AE: Yet all these platforms are owned by big media owners – the industrial machine.

AM: I disgree – Ushahidi is not owned by a big company. Many platforms aren’t. When someone becomes powerful in a system, they don’t give away their power.

They hang on to it – and resist change that will take it away. The way I spoke at the beginning was a plea to be the actors that can make a change.

AE: For a lot of people, their world is the 15 miles around them. We’re talking about global change, but a lot of making a difference is focusing on that 15 mile radius.

AM: I can think of plenty of people who are doing these local community level processes. They’re thinking about changing and re-engineering systems at a local level, and that can have a profound effect when it’s replicated to other parts of the world.

DK: Too many boards are completely dominated by men. Don’t trust any successful man over 65 – he’s bound to be a scoundrel. I’m taking about an age where 50% of the directors on boards are women. The majority of businesses in the world are built on a linear model, and I’m talking about a circular model, not just input to output to bin. We’re consuming resources at a rate that means we need about 1.4 more planets. So we need to find another planet, or change our means. I’m very pro-business and anti-big government. Small is beautiful in business and government.

AM: It’s not a one size fits all situation. There are times when we need scale – and times when we have to bring that together with the macro.

DC: It’s allowing organisations to behave in more ad-hoc ways.

LB: A bunch of people in social enterprise sector in the UK had a problem with Salesforce over the term “social enterprise”. One side think they’re great because they make money, one because they don’t. They’re both wrong. No amount of small, no growth businesses are going to solve world hunger. There are big issues and we do need to do something about them.

DK: Last night I was with a publishing tycoon – they had hundreds of people doing every function. They reorganised every magazine into small businesses within the larger business, and wastage dropped as they dropped the central planning model. If a magazine wanted to relocate – they could. They no longer needed a huge office building in central London to show off and crush humanity under them.

LB: I DO NOT want to be constrained by people whose horizons and ambitions are defined by a 15 mile radius. It’s not about staying in your backwards community with idiots. The world is getting smaller and bigger at the same time. Let’s not get into this rose-tinted idea that we all want to live in “communities” – I don’t live in a community. The people who go on about community tend to be the most highly mobile people in the world.

AM: Human beings are designed and built around meaningful human connection. I respect your passion – but I also understand that if we don’t get meaningful connection it does bad things to us.

LB: But our connections are multi-layered – they can be all over the world.

AM: Sure – I can can talk to people in Finland and Russia. But situation and place are very important. The technologies we’ve harnessed are about making human connection. For many people place is incredibly important.

DC: tech is interesting me to about how we connect. It’s about lowering the technical barrier to joining a conversation. t’s up to us to all find ways to lower the barriers and get people into these conversations.

Anthony Edwards, Director of Communications, Havas Worldwide London

AE: It’s a valid challenge – not everybody wants the same thing. We organise by community – the people in this room have organised around common interests. We’ve done some work with Santander, who do good work. We were struggling to get people to get interested. We went to Shrewsbury, helped out with a project, and got people buying our products. There was a value exchange.

DK: Living is the shires can be boring – I’ve lived in Bedford for a while…

Someone from the audience proves to live in Bedford

DK: I love Bedford… People no longer organise around locality, but around interests. Those communities may be trans-national, global communities, but they act in a local way. You don’t have to get on a train at 6am to interact with them. That sort of pointless commute is what I’m getting at when I talk about local business – I’m talking about people anywhere in the world working together without those four-hour  commutes.

LB: I’m easily bored – those vague platitudes we’ve drifted in have rather bored me. I hope someone in the audience knows what the future of social is…

AM: In the US they’re starting to rethink their investment legistlation to start opening up business to crowd-funding. We’re all brought up believing pensions are good, investing in innovation is bad. We’ll all pay £20,000 for what the bankers did.

LB: This is our superpower: people joined together in networks to solve problems. If you look at young, entrepreneurial people in Africa, in Asia, looking to solve problems and create wealth – that excites me.

One attendee suggests that the majority of communities are still loally focused – but what will the world look like if we fast forward to a world where more people are connected around passions.

DC: Most technology cycles are 20 years. Social got going in 2005 when MySpace was getting more impressions than Google. So, we’re looking at 2025 before it works through. Open capital’s effect is just getting going. As media is being destroyed now, the city could be next…

A debate breaks out, about whether there’s an ability to bring global communities and local ones together intelligently. 

LB: Your Square Mile – they try to take some global services and package them for local communities  the most powerful effect is where you have diaspora and post-conflict communities, who organise globally to rebuild communities.

Final comment…

Jennifer Edwards (@edwards_jen), September 28, 2012


In Association with

Havas Worldwide London