Unleashing the Collective

Just returned to my office from this Thought Leader Gathering (TLG) put on by Heartland Circle and held this morning at Best Buy Company.

Being in a contemplative mood for the last few weeks, today’s gathering was interesting on many levels and also brought me back to one aspect of my work: unleashing the collective. The collective of Internet-connected humanity is my work, but I was sort of surprised by how something NOT directly in my strategic technology domain informed my thoughts in such a profound way today.

The event was about WoLF: The Women’s Leadership Forum at Best Buy. The leaders, Julie Gilbert and Mary Capozzi, led off with powerfully told personal stories that helped us understand what led each of them to the formation of this forum. WoLF’s essence is that it empowers women in the organization and is clearly unleashing their perspectives, their influence and engaging them. Apparently most women had been relatively excluded.

A key aspect to this forum (and the WoLF ‘packs’ which have formed) is that partnering with the men within Best Buy is critical to bringing women’s energy to bear for the good of them and, especially, the company. Read the link above to learn more but what you won’t take away was how powerful this has become and the ROI that Best Buy the business is achieving from it.

If you want to get all left brain and quantified and dismiss my relating this event to you as YAWM (Yet Another Women’s Movement) consider this: Best Buy is measuring the results of lower female turnover in an otherwise incredibly high turnover labor pool (i.e., retail). Another fact Ms. Gilbert articulated is that, “Women buy more technology products than men — spending $55 billion of the annual $96 billion in technology sales.” Hmmm…so engaging women could be good business and profitable…hmmm.

Personally I can speak to how smart this is with a daughter working at the Apple Store to a wife whose early career was retail management at Room and Board and buying at Target Stores.

If you’re a guy and your experience is anything like mine, my bride is an equal partner in life but is “more equal” when it comes to the aesthetics of electronics that will be visible in our home or even her influence on any larger discretionary spending. This is a woman who, as that former buyer at Target, is someone you’d want on your side in a tough negotiation and is not someone you’d want to ignore if you were selling something. Still, when we go together and SHE is buying the car (and I keep deflecting every question toward her), the salesman comes to me again and again. That’s been her experience in most male dominated domains (yes, even at Best Buy) although times they are a-changin’.

Today’s TLG is just one visible example of a thread I see running through everything from PR and marketing to product development: an awakening along with an increasing willingness to be open and embrace the collective intelligence, consciousness and participation of the collective humanity — ALL the collective humanity. Not just women; not just some ethnic group; not specific ages. All of us.

Again, my work is specifically focused on that collective who are increasingly connected and communicative via the Internet and this awakening to the shifts in demanding a voice; expecting to be heard; and organizing to be empowered as a collective is changing the rules of every game. Unleashing the collective — whether women in an organization, customers or prospects, employees of every stripe and even interested observers — is something we all better get good at or suffer the consequences of our own ignorance.

After the riveting conversation starter talk by Mary and Julie about the formation of the WoLF movement, the TLG group (about 120 or so people) broke up into small groups of five to discuss two questions, one of which really made an impact on me: what is your personal “WoLF”?  In other words, what specifically are you doing to lead and make an impact in the world?

People had many different methods by which they were helping people, being a catalyst within their own respective organizations, or participating within movements of some sort. Being a technology strategist and dot connector, all I could see were threads and commonalities that all of our “WoLF’s” were but pieces of an ever increasing move toward wholeness and, for purely business reasons, how it was providing new opportunities to reduce inefficiencies (i.e., costs) and spark creativity and innovation.

This goes WAY beyond trying to figure out where Millenials are paying attention and trying tricks like “Hey…let’s post a viral video on YouTube” or “Let’s create our own social network” (like the world needs YASN).

Consider an internal social network; ideation software (even an open source Digg-like software could allow idea entry and employee voting); creating your own WoLF group; offering every functional area within the company their own blog; the list goes on-and-on. DO SOMETHING THOUGH since more and more companies are “getting it” and understanding how to unleash the collective…

…and they might be trying to hire your people right now or capture your customers.

2 Comments

  1. George Johnson on June 1, 2007 at 5:58 pm

    Steve,

    Another extremely insightful commentary connecting dots that a lot of people are still ignoring at their own expense ( and that of their companies)

    George



  2. craigle bagel on June 4, 2007 at 9:54 pm

    Great commentary on the nature of collective wisdom. i was honored to be among the luminaries in the room at the TLG. we created the magic in the middle together.



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About Steve Borsch

Strategist. Learner. Idea Guy. Salesman. Connector of Dots. Friend. Husband & Dad. CEO. Janitor. More here.

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