Real_Time_Rain_Ripples, Industrial, Digital, Social, Era, Definition, Andrew Stein, SteinVoxPart 3 of a 3 part series. What differentiates the industrial, digital, social eras and why is it important? We began two posts ago with the industrial era, putting forth scope and context with respect to thinking, leadership and innovation. Yesterday, we discussed the digital era. Today, we look at the present era in progress, the Social Era.

Reading closely, the transition from industrial, to digital, to social is one of hard and persistent to soft and transient to ephemeral and real-time. The ephemeral and real-time acts and reacts like raindrops on a ponds surface, action causing reaction, only to be replaced by the next.

This series is not comprehensive. Any reader will find gaps, and have issues to take. That is precisely the intent. This is to spark thought, generate discussion – and, hopefully convince you to leave a comment about your experience, agreement, or disagreement. My intent is to provide the breath that we need to take as we move at the speed of light in the social era. It’s easy to get lost, and forget what history has brought us to this place.

Part 3, my perception of the social era, follows.

The Social Era

The Social era started with the second generation of the internet. 2002? 2004? In the social era, technology became a primary tool to connect people to other people and information, in real time. Platforms shifted from re-usable code and operating systems, and eventually to the combination of the cloud and mobile clients.

Big Data Plays Trump Software Apps

Progressive software and technology companies recognized the technology shift and began to enable traditional software to participate in connecting people with information to create value. They further amplified that transition by capturing even more data in the process. Technology business models evolved brand new business models emerged as businesses learned that every initiative was a data play.

Not every company got it, and many still don’t. How do you know which ones get it? Ask what their Big Data strategy is. If they don’t have one, they don’t get it, and will be made obsolete. If they have a strategy, but it’s about building out expensive IT infrastructure, then they really don’t have a strategy (unless you talking to Amazon, or other high potential cloud hosting play).

However, if they say “yes,” and it involves predictive analytics or prescriptive analytics (not forensic descriptive analytics). They get it. If it is a platform play, then they really get it. (You should consider investing, as they will rule the future.)

Disruption Dominates

In the social era, the ratio of disruptive to incremental innovation shifts from a fraction, to something greater than 1 (one). Agile methodology, and rapid iterative development and release cycles replace build, test and ship models.

IT-centric license and upgrade certification were replaced with user-centric bring-your-own-device (BYOD) and mass-customized per-individual software deployment models. Disruptive innovation regularly replaces complete systems, instead of merely automating them, as the digital era did.

Transparency Drives Truth

Social transparency, knowledge sharing and access became democratized. Everyone is connected. Companies no longer compete with competitors, but instead win by serving customers, generating sustainable community.

Along with social transparency comes social accountability. For the first sustainable time, consumers have more power to influence markets and industries than companies do. People collaboratively generate their own collective perspective and sentiment. Value is demanded that commerce has no choice, but to deliver.

Social accountability means that everyone is watching. Sensors, video, permanent records, everything is recorded, and kept forever. While parents worry about images on Facebook, industry worries about compliance, ethics, and discovery. In the end, privacy was lost long ago. If you have nothing to hide social transparency will be your ally.

Appliances Enable Mobility

Computing appliances enable us to get up from the desk. Previously, the desk was the only place we could engage with others, over email, the internet, and so on. having smartphones and tablets enabled us to communicate, share and be reached, wherever we were., Getting up from the desk was made possible by moving the platform off everyone’s individual PC, and into the cloud where agile methods could rapidly update, fix, extend and innovate it.

Content is created with equal speed, then distributed, and repurposed. Content has become information currency. Machines become automatic content creation systems. Everything has a sensor, not just your smart phone, but packages, pipelines, vehicles, kitchen appliances. GE’s Industrial Internet concept amplifies mobility by connecting the physical world intelligently, and enabling management remotely.

The mobility paradigm may not be in and of itself disruptive, but the potential it has created for other disruptive innovations for industries like energy, healthcare, retail, and more – is disruptive indeed.

Economic Conversations To Social Nervous Systems

The economic conversation becomes two-way, and often n-ways. People create value one connection at a time. Membership is not persistent, but rapidly forming groups achieve a result, disband, and new ones rapidly form to replace them with newer, but also transient objectives. Vast business, partner, channel community and consumer ecosystems evolve, and social mechanisms develop enabling each to connect and listen to the other creating a social nervous system.

Through the social nervous system and connective tissue, these ecosystems focus on the customer experience. Using the influence of a collaborative crowd, products and services achieve new levels of customer-centricity. Smart industries and companies build businesses around listening to the discussions, and constantly deliver better and better customer experience.

Company growth comes from being agile, flexible, and possessing the ability, and the will, to pivot strategy. Trying something new before opportunity disappears is the difference between survival and disappearance. Openness enables fluidity and integration of systems at a new level. Companies have another new organic platform from which to capture value.

Industrial, Digital, Social Era 2.Next

All this change created Big Data, and new sciences to analyze it. Statistics became the new language to understand data. But not just data in large collections, but streaming real-time data that reflects a collective consciousness of some social group of people. Technology now enables us to sense the mood of the population, and create new exceptionally complex value chains. Some of these value chains are persistent; many others are transient.

Whatever it is, it is going to be big, completely different and surprise us.  We’re in the social era, and the end is not in sight.

To Ponder

In the social era, what will you truly disrupt? What ripple of truth will you initiate, that affects those ripples around you. Will you choose disruption over the iPhone app syndrome? Will you create something profound, or try to squeeze your space into the iPhone app store with something that no one really needs?

Will it all be moot, when HTML5+ wins, making apps obsolete? As the cloud has become the new dynamic operating system for computing, won’t HTML5 also make on-client computing obsolete? Really, who wants to have to build, deploy, incur switching costs, and just basically deal with android, vs. windows, vs. iPhone?

Possible spoiler alert – could Microsoft actually have an advantage? They lack a mobile platform legacy to restrain creative replacement of app-based business economics. Could this lead to an untethered leadership entry into the world of HTML5+? These are all questions the social era will reveal new surprising answers.

Image credits: KaroliK via photopin cc

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4 Responses to Industrial, Digital, Social: 3 Eras Defining Our Time Part 3

  1. Jim Matorin says:

    A lot to chew on with the third post of your series Andrew. As a marketing geek these are exciting times. Yes this is the Social Era, everyone has the potential to have a voice in real time. However, as a student of society, I am beginning to observe that after the buying and selling process of goods & services, we are all so connected, we are disconnected socially. Connections are going wide vs. deep. How much do we really know about people except for those few you can count on one hand?

    To Bob’s point, Big Data will be powerful for those companies that evolve into Social Enterprises – those that communicate effectively out and within.

    • Andrew Stein says:

      Excellent observation, Jim. Agreed. the depth at which we can connect is stratifying. I’ve always held that there are (at least) three tiers to social networks. Many definitions for the tiers exist from smarter folks than I.

      My three tiers start at the bottom of a pyramid. People that I know, or who know me, and we have made an effort to exchange and make a connection should an opportunity to create value present it self. The middle tier of my pyramid has people that I actively, at least 3 times a year, connect with, and suggest opportunities to create value. The top tier of the pyramid consists of people that I know very well, and actively pursue creating value with.

      The tiers are a function of nothing other than bandwidth. And, the social era has really made the bottom two tiers of the pyramid to grow exponentially.

  2. Bob Sherlock says:

    As usual, you’ve given us an insightful and thought-provoking series.
    “Big Data” is one of those terms that quickly gains such currency that many people implicitly assume that everyone else has the same understanding of what it means. You’ve talked about what it means.
    Would be interested in your thoughts on two other questions about Big Data: Who is it powerful for? and for what purposes?
    Clearly it’s relevant and powerful to companies with sufficient scale to generate lot of transactional data internally. Ditto for companies that serve or seek large numbers of customers, even if the enterprise itself is not large. In both cases, companies can use it for insights to guide actions toward growth and profitability.
    But is it relevant to firms dealing with small numbers of customers and relatively few transactions, and if so, how would it be useful?

    • Andrew Stein says:

      Thank you Bob for making a comment – and queuing up a future discussion. I have an affinity for Big Data, and did some earlier blogs on the topic. Your questions, however, deserve their own focus, as they have not received the focus they deserve.

      I’ll work on something in the coming weeks.

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