Tuesday, 12 December 2006

Networked Morality and the Speed of Change

Traditionally, it often takes a generation for the morals of a society to change. From the way people dress, to what is considered acceptable behaviour and language, there has always been a timeline that for the most part, we as a society, seem to be able to absorb and keep pace with.

I referred to something I called 'networked morality' in some of my recent postings below. It seems to me that ‘networked morality’, like many things on the Web, occurs at a much more dramatic pace than we have been traditionally used to. The network effect with word of mouth and now user created content, can create a new social norm within months, weeks or even days. Something that might have been ok in the past, gets rejected in no uncertain terms as the network discloses, discusses, debates and determines what the new norm will be.

How will business change to adapt to this or even can they?

I was told a story recently about a Sr. Executive who made some "joking" remarks that could have been misconstrued about a co-worker from S.Asia. The jokes were all on video and the individuals boss, an even more Sr. Executive, threw it up on to YouTube for 2 days not even considering the potential impact that it could have had to their brand.

Does 'networked morality' exceed our societal ability to keep pace with it? What are the longer terms affects and how will they manifest themselves?

I don't think we have a clue what this could all mean yet. I am interested to know what other people think.


Mark said...

Nothing new here, Leigh. Marshall McLuhan was writing about these effects in 1964. The rest of us have woken up at varying times between then and now - now, of course, the effects of a UCaPP society are obvious and all around us.

For me, the question is not how will they adapt, or can they adapt. I think the issue is far more profound than adapting, since adaptation suggests keeping fundamental assumptions about the (prior) world while being assimilated by the new. For me the key question is, when will businesses (meaning managers and professors of business) truly realize that the changes of the past 50 (and I would argue, 162) years represent such a profound change to an industrial age mentality that the foundational assumptions, vocabulary, and premises of business must be carefully reconsidered, reframed, and reoriented? For me, it is only incidentally a question of morality if you're into value judgements.

We experience far more than we can understand; our reach (influence) always far exceeds our grasp (understanding). It is long past time that we collectively start to think of the totality of effects as the primary focus of business, rather than results.

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