The Catch-22 for Social Media and Innovation

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Many senior and mid-level managers find themselves bound up in a Catch-22 situation regarding the use of social media for innovation efforts – and well, the use of social media in general.

The problem is that they do not see much value in the use of social media and thus they do not spend time – or even allocate time – to get the know more about social media and how it can help them with their innovation efforts and other daily tasks.

Here we get to the catch-22 because unless you decide to invest time to learn more about social media and how this works, there is very little chance that you will ever find value in this.

Part of this problem is age-based. It seems as if people above the age of 30 who have not invested time to get familiar with social media have a negative impression of social media. All that tweeting and Facebooking doesn’t make sense to them; it’s something their children are engrossed in, but not something they want to tackle themselves, especially when their schedule is already overloaded. Without having devoted the time necessary to understand the basic workings of the major social media platforms, they are unwilling to make time to explore what it can bring to their innovation program.

Another roadblock is that leaders tend to focus more on the skills and activities that helped them reach their current positions rather than on building new skills. They often don’t get social media, because they are uncertain and insecure about how to execute it and there is little about the skills they built in the past that will help them intuitively understand it.

Unfortunately, this overlooks the fact that social media is evolving so rapidly that many people and entire companies are about to be shocked in the coming years as they begin to realize the depth in which social media will penetrate theirs and many other industries.

Social media has the potential to be so pervasive that they have no choice but to embrace it. Just think of how people are going to interact with each other in the future and how valuable this data can be if it gets mined properly. If – or rather when – this happens, these managers could have been much better prepared to deal with this and thus also be able to capitalize on opportunities. Yet because they’re not spending the time learning about social media that they need to do, they as yet have no idea of its power to transform business.

So we have a real catch-22 situation that only deepens as many managers I’ve talked with are shying away from social media because of their fears of information overload and chaos.

Learning how to cope with everything that comes at your through social media requires learning about filtering tools and techniques that make social media much more approachable. But if you aren’t willing to learn even the basics of social media, you’ll certainly not even be aware such filtering techniques exist.

But they do. Try to set-up an account on Twitter and use HootSuite.com as a filtering tool. Remember that Twitter is a great business intelligence tool.

And finally it all comes back to purpose. If you have defined a purpose for being involved in social media in pursuit of innovation – or other matters – you can then rationalize spending time on understanding the various platforms and the filtering techniques, which will get you through the chaos.

Until then, you are just stuck…

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