Who can measure Twitter?

It's fascinating to watch the business press struggle to understand Twitter.  A host of articles this week have exploded the online dialogue.

Some are still contemptuous - that is has no value.  A remarakble assessment and a dangerous lack of curiosity:  millions of people are exchanging, growing by hundreds of thousands daily, and no value is being exchanged?  Maybe the Emperor does have clothes and some cannot see them?   

As a Business Anthropologist, I will be fascinated to watch what new metrics will be invented to track Twitter's penetration, to say nothing of how to measure its value.  An who will invent metrics?  I'll follow the conversation on Twitter and soon find out.

Twitter still confounding the pundits

Many are bewildered by the explosion of social media.  And, unfortunately, it's not unusual that humans denounce what they don't understand.    Let them eat Tweets in today's NY Times is a recent example.   "Twitter is a trap...connectivity is poverty..."   

As a Business Anthropologist, I take the liberty to ask that everyone take a deep breath.  Yes, our world is changing greatly, and rapidly.  But not everything is changing.  Humans have always gotten by through exchanging with each other, whether cooperating to keep young away from predators, trading precious material, or -yes - sharing stories and perceptions. 

I take exception to the suggestion that "connectivity is poverty."  On the contrary, connectivity is how people thrive.  If you think rich people don't care about their cellphones,  try taking them away.

Social media are powering a revolution.  They will play a big part as the economy continues to morph and reinvent.  I invite those who do not comprehend  the value of Twitter to go back to their high school economics texts.  There you'll find that money is not THE measure of value; it is A measure of value.  And fairly recent in human history. 

Exchanging is as old as the first human community, perhaps 300,000n generations ago.  Money has been around for roughly 40 generations.  I'm not a bit surprised at the current explosion of exchanges that don't involve money. 

They're certainly not an indicator of poverty.  Rather, they point to changing seats of power.  Away from the bean counters.  Eureka.

Facing Uncertainty with Curiosity

The ability to approach ambiguity with curiosity  may be the most valuable skill in the next decade - and perhaps beyond.   A WSJ article with some good examples.  Jim Collins calls it the core of entrepreneuring in his recent article, How to thrive in these crazy times.  He claims that we live in an ambigious world anyway, so accepting that fact is actually less risky that choosing an illusory path that appears to minimize ambiguity.     
We are now, I think, having to adjust to dealing with a world that is going to be ferocious. We don't have any practice with that. People like me who grew up in the postwar period are not practiced at the volatilities, the turbulence, the uncertainties of the world that will probably define the second half of my life.

It is only in times like these that you get a chance to show your strength. In the end, I think we need to have absolute faith in our ability to deal with whatever is thrown at us. And we need to have a complete, realistic paranoia that a lot can be thrown at us. It's our ability to put those two contradictory ideas together: We need to be prepared for what we can't predict and, at the same time, have this total, unwavering faith that we will find a way to deal with all of it. And I believe we will. I don't believe the world will treat us well, but we will figure out how to do very well. 
As a Business Anthropologist,  I've been asking myself what are the skills that will enable Leaders to thrive in the new economic reality?  What could make our enterprises resilient? People don't like uncertainty. The brain shuts down, rather than responding with the ingenuity that we need at this moment.  However, those skills can be cultivated; we are blessed with the potential for Neuroplaticity.  And brain researchers have made good progress showing what's required to be smarter in uncertain times. 

Collins is optimistic.  So am I.  A number of leaders are stepping up to use this moment to build a better world, and many are willing to learn new skills.    

What has changed if you're building a business now, as opposed to 10, 20, or 30 years ago?
The skills. You need to be continually learning. For example, if you accept the idea that work is infinite and time is finite, you realize you have to manage your time and not your work. You need a laserlike focus on doing first things first. And that means having a ferocious understanding of what you are not going to do. The question used to be which phone call you wouldn't take. Now, it's the discipline not to have your e-mail on. The skill is knowing how to sift through the blizzard of information that hits you all the time.

Not your grandfather's skill set? Maybe not.  But, one thing hasn't changed since your grandfather's time, and far before that:  the power of knowing what you're  commited to.  As Collins points out, if you know who you want to serve and how you want them to benefit, you can stay curious. You can be resilient.  That's how to thrive in these crazy times.
Don't worry. Be curious about how to serve.   

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Are You Fit to Thrive in Any Economy?