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« Social Networking as Information Arbitrage | Main | Trepidation, fear, and the red herring »

February 26, 2008


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Matt Searles

Seems to me that relationship development isn't really a process of conscious will, that its more one of nature. When I think about relationships in relationship to business.. I often wonder how well suited business's nature is to relationships..

There's such a period, in the history of business, where the human element was systematically stomped out.. or the bottom line becomes the measure of all things.. that this, it would seems to me, builds into the foundations of business's nature and consciousness.. something that doesn't work well for relationships.

I'll give you an example.. There's the question of ROI, and bottom lines.. I wouldn't go so far as to say these things aren't important.. but if you develop a relationship with me that is purely about you're agendas.. as a pose to being able to enjoy the pleasure of the relationship... what does that mean for the relationship?

There's something in the social dynamic.. in what has brought us together.. that probably has one of the biggest rolls to play in what type of relationship we develop, and how that evolves..

In the social media space, my approach to developing relationships starts with the question "well, what sorta relationships do I want?" The basic answer is "umm, functional ones." I do my best to listen, and to contribute.. thinking "how can I help you?" But I don't really feel like it's a conscious process.. the relationships I develop are often.. self evolving, and I'm forever surprised by the humanity of the people I meet.

But businesses, as we understand them today, seem to be all about conscious processes. It's all about numbers, which is problematic from the perspective that so many things are difficult to quantify. Quantification is made several times more difficult as the rate of change increases.

In psychology, a psychosis is a result of one's conscious self living too far out of accord with ones deeper nature. If relationships, the best ones anyway, are more the product of deeper nature then conscious will.. what sorta unique challenges does this present to business management?

It seems to me that social media, in the long run, will change corporate culture.. that business will be reformatted.. that it will need to in order to meet the new challenges.

So I suppose the job of the new media strategist, in part, must be like that of a therapist.. trying to help his or her patient get over there hang ups.. which in part is about trying to inculcate a wider sort of consciousness.

Rachel Happe

Hi Matt -

Thanks for the interesting comments. I couldn't agree more. By providing a framework I'm basically trying to say...businesses are often using technology to build relationships inappropriately and that they need to understand relationships first and what kinds of relationships they need and at what level.

On the other hand, I think the social media conversations often ignore the fact that we need businesses of all kinds - they do provide all kinds of value to people both as consumers and as employees.

So the question is: how can we humanize the organization. The rise of the corporation and Madison Avenue really stripped organizations of personality. I'm suggesting that enterprises need to try and strip out the 'handlers' and focus on building real, human, relationships.



I really like your work here. I'm a Systems Admin who is constantly trying to punch holes in the firewall that resides between the enterprise and social media/networking. I've been achieving increasing levels of success too. I have a blog where I cover my plight. Here's a piece that's garnered a great deal of attention called "How to Build Your own Social Network in the Enterprise"
Here's another one called "How to build your own search engine on the enterprise"

I hope to visit on a regular basis. Keep up the great work!


Paul Caplan

While I'm all in favour of putting the focus on 'relationships' and getting organisations to see that is something they need to build into their business storytelling, I worry about this over-emphasis on levels. Relationships do not progress neatly nor stay on one plane. Part of their joy and power is how they shift and slide and defy expectations. If we over PowerPoint a 'process' we are in danger of not seeing the opportunities for creative moments by always looking at where we are and how we can move to the next level.

Rachel Happe

Totally agree - but I do think frameworks can help people understand how tools, channels, processes fit with business. Where people and relationships are concerned everything is messy (in good ways and bad).

Frameworks help guide investment decisions around new tools and resources... I think it would be a bad idea to use this at the personal level for specifc relationships...although when I was a management consultant we did like to try to fit romantic relationships into our product development framework... which only furthered our social isolation :)

Cathy Davidson

I found your post through Beth Kanter, who is such an extraordinary exponent of building relationships, not just using technology. Back when I was a Vice Provost for Interdisciplinary Studies at Duke (it was kind of what, in business, would be the r and d person--a great innovative and challenging position), I traveled with the head of development who said over and over, it is ALL about relationships. Same with social networking. The lesson learned over and over. Incidentally, and on that point, I am guessing readers of your blog will want to know about our 2008 Digital Media and Learning Competition focusing on "participatory learning" (basically Web 2.0 and all the ways we think, share, create, and envision together on line). is the url and the applications are due by October 15, 2008. There's a major grants category and a young innovators (18-25) category. We're psyched! Pass it on, and thanks for all you teach us about social networking and, you guessed it, participatory learning!

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If we over PowerPoint a 'process' we are in danger of not seeing the opportunities for creative moments by always looking at where we are and how we can move to the next level.

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