Dr. Hal Gregersen co-author of The Innovator's DNA - Mastering the 5 Skills of Disruptive Innovators was a guest on my radio show recently. You can listen here.
Towards the end of the interview I asked him about social media and its role with these 5 skills. I asked him:
Let’s talk about social media. As I read your book and thought about the five skills, particularly associating, I thought about social media. I find it a great tool to feed this habit. Others think it’s fiendish devil breaking down our associations with each other.
What’s your thoughts?
And here's his answer and our conversation:
Social media has the potential for innovation if we use it carefully. And it has the potential to crush innovation if we use it the it is systematically set up for us to use.
So, it’s like when we buy a book on Amazon, Amazon is smart enough to figure out what are some books that are like that book that we just bought and:
“ Might you like this one, too?”
Well, what social media does is it basically says:
“Who are some people like the people you already know that you might like?”
And we start building these networks more often than not that are like us. And when that happens, instead of becoming a mechanism for great social and positive change in the world it often becomes a mechanism for deep in-breeding and self-centered thinking that leads to catastrophes.
For me, social media has a double-edge. It could be used for something quite incredible or incredibly good. Or it could be used for something that actually is incredibly destructive.
For me, it is being conscious for what am I using it for? Am I using it in a thoughtful way? Am I using it in a way that taps into different ways of looking and seeing the world. That might be somebody from a different company, somebody from a different country, somebody from a different community or background. When I use social media to connect me to into places I normally wouldn’t connect that’s when it becomes fun and interesting. I think we could create some positive social values.
A couple examples. One is an early guest on this show: Bill Davidow who is the author of OVERCONNECTED: The Promise and Threat of the Internet. He talks about the threat of creating self-reinforcing echo chambers.
Sometimes in my frustration, I see social media and particularly Twitter as a high-school popularity contest. It’s easy to fall into it. Who doesn’t want the validation of thousands of people saying:
“Hey that’s a great thought you had.”
On the other hand, it’s a great opportunity to connect with other people around the world. I’m fascinated with the democracy movements in the Middle East and northern Africa using social media to get their story out in an environment where diversity of thought is maybe, perhaps, not encouraged. And I’m beginning to see the common thread of innovation and community and the need to connect and ask questions is as common in these democracy movements as it is here in corporations trying to find new ideas to reach out to consumers who are in effect their voters.
I’m an American. I grew up in the US. But, now I live in several countries. Part of the year I live in Paris, France; part of the year I live in Abu Dhabi and the United Arab Emirates in the middle of the Middle East. I can empathize with what you are talking about.
Many times in the Middle East the approach to innovation there is buying innovative things vs building innovative people.
One of the great by-products of the democracy movements in the middle east is that it is fostering these Innovator’s DNA skills that will help them. They have a deep need for incredibly creative people to create systems and solutions in a world that is turned upside down in the last 12 months.
When you present it like that it seems there is such fantastic potential there that awaits them. The potential for growth that is going to come from allowing all of these voices to participate in exchanging ideas that will bring change in their daily lives.
This part of our conversation is transcribed in Part Three of our conversation.