I went to a toastmasters meeting tonight. It was a well run club. It had more roles and organization than our Agile Philanthropy group does. I think this is actually freeing rather than limiting, because it provides a way for junior members and newcomers, like me to get directly involved in some way. Rather than relying on heavy facilitation with post-it notes, it relies on individuals filling roles. One person counts the “ahs and ums”, another keeps time, and another evaluates the meeting and the speakers. There is a lot of voting, and silent feedback for speakers from members. I get the feeling that this keeps things moving along, faster than the heavily consensus decision making style that we are used to with Agile. Not that one is better than another, but the format works for the this group and their goals.
On a separate note, I’ve been thinking about the growth of social media, and blogs and the internet. I was thinking about the punk rock community, that I was a part of in high school and college. The Do it Yourself ethic that existed and was so dearly protected by members of the community kept things real, honest, fun. It also kept us connected, because we all contributed.
This was the age when most music was coming from the ultra one-way megaphone mass media of the 80’s and 90’s. Independent musicians could say that they were part of something special, that their style of throwing basement shows, pressing their own 7″ records and running tours out of a beat up 1972 Chevy Van was counter to the mainstream Bon Jovi stadium rock productions.
One of the things that I’m noticing today, is that the one to one marketing, the rise of social networking sites and “long tail” of advertising, is that it is back to those same punk rock DIY principles that we grew up with. I know, many of you will say I sold out, or claim the soul of the punk rock movement was lost. But I think of this not as a departure to something new, but to something old. A way of getting things off the ground through a web of interactions and a focus on “what can you bring” rather than “who do you like”. The major label super stadium rock show thing was an aberration. John Coltrane traveled around in a small tour van and packed in 350 shows a year. His marketing was one to one, people saw his shows and bought his records.
This is how it still works now. Not just in music, but in business too. We’re getting away from the mass marketing media blitz. Who can prop up a brand anymore? Coca Cola, maybe. And they pump billions into advertising so you see daily reminders of why sugar water tastes good. Otherwise who would buy it? On the other end of the spectrum we have the one to one network, where I know a guy who does great work, is a plumber and you should try him. This is the way business was always done, whether it is a punk rock show, a jazz concert, a startup or a non-profit organization. Social networking, the DIY ethic and blogging only are manifestations of using technology the way that humans tend to work naturally.