Technology grows smart, we turn out…dummies

Firstly, just a quick note on why I chose this title. My inspiration was the For Dummies series which is the main learning source for individuals who seek to take the easy way to understanding a specific topic or domain. Information is presented in a systematic way and works great for readers who are new to a specific topic, so I embrace this initiative, don`t get me wrong. Therefore, I merely chose this term for emphasizing the theme below.
On a more “niched” note, there`s been a lot hype lately referring mostly to the benefits of social media and cloud technology, and in general, to the potential of web 2.0 platforms to store, share and distribute information. Whereas UGC (User Generated Content) is essentially a “blessing” for freedom of expression and collective intelligence stimulation, there are nonetheless some drawbacks we need to address:
1. Social Impotence – In an era when staying sane means staying connected to the Internet (n.r. and Yes, I have recently seen a stream of conversations where the idea of the Internet being “turned off” for one day drove people crazy), curing such a dependency can turn out to be quite difficult. Apparently, social media usage actually affects our brain, studies showing that 5% of internet users are unable to control how much time they spend online. They crave for more of the excitement produced by using the Internet after each interaction. No wonder I am seeing everyone spending their time online when they`re out with their friends. Why restrain yourself to an audience of 2 or 4 people, when you could be “out” there for your entire network of 5,000 “friends”?
2. Multitasking Shortcomings – it might seem that those working with social media or constantly switching between more websites in the same time might have the ability to multitask, but studies have found that when comparing heavy new media users with others they perform much worse during task switching tests. It`s not about being fast, it`s about paying attention.
3. Silly Syndromes – You`ve probably never heard of the Phantom Vibration Syndrome, but you can imagine what it`s all about. Basically, you`re brain messes with you giving the sensation that the phone vibrated when it actually didn`t. Played by your own device. Not too bad, smartphones!
4. More Egocentric than ever – social media triggers dopamine release, which is a happiness hormone. When people are active online talking about themselves gives a sudden burst in the reward centers from their brains. What ever happened to listening to others?
5. Using External memory rather than our own – we would rather use forms of transactive memory, storing information outside ourselves, than use our own brains for storing it. We remember less because we are not required to do so – it`s enough that we know where information can be found. So, let`s hope our external hardware doesn`t crash when we`re in a meeting, right?
I may have approached just the tip of the iceberg, acting like the Grinch who stole the High-Tech Hype, but I will return with another post with some of the mainstream`s advantages. Stay tuned! Or is it tubed? 

Just Around The Corner: Mobile Reputation Management

Just when communication and marketing experts thought they can take a relaxing breath, having reached some form of calculating ROI and measurement of their social media activities, mobile channels and technologies start posing new fresh challenges in the online landscape. From QR codes, SMS, mobile advertising, search, and optimized emails to mobile commerce, coupons, MMS, location-based services, and Bluetooth, companies are desperately seeking for generating sales from their mobile presence.

Not having a mobile strategy is like giving up on future. While a consistent number of companies already started integrating mobile into broader marketing campaigns, integration is yet quite basic (Econsultancy, 2013). Considering the fact that more people are reading emails on a mobile device than on desktop devices, it is actually quite obvious that consumer expectations are starting to change as well. Simple, to the point, no extra layers of useless information, just personalized and relevant content going straight to the consumer. No wonder Facebook chose to buy WhatsApp!

Mobile strategy implies efforts from all departments: management, marketing, communications, design, development and legal. The main goal for mobile programs is brand engagement, loyalty and the need to stay competitive. So far. But please NOTE: mobile users do not tolerate problems (like bugs) on mobile. A problematic mobile app, for example, will be abandoned by users after only one or two failed attempts. Furthermore, dissatisfied users are driven to competitive apps and will spread unfavourable reviews in person and online. My question is this: What does the future hold for mobile reputation management?

What Does SEO Really Look Like?

The priority of understanding SEO has become an unbearable truth for all companies. Either we`re referring to online reputation, keyword competition and incoming revenues from online activities, it`s all being built around SEO objectives and metrics. SEO analysis has started becoming more and more complicated along with the constant growth in keyword volume that organizations are managing.

Panda, Penguin, Hummingbird – all if these Google updates do nothing more than increase the ambiguity of the long lasting question which revolves around SEO: How do I get MY public to see MY website, MY social channel, MY sponsored reviews when they search for MY organization? Digital opportunities are mostly leveraged through either Search Engine Marketing or Email Marketing – the most effective tools for building up revenue. But how sophisticated does the SEO strategy need to be with all the competitors out there developing content strategies, where the guiding principle is velocity and volume? How can organizations internalize into their integrated communications programs all the potential keywords, mismatches and relevant key phrases to add up to the final SEO objectives?

While search engines are taking advantage of USG (User Generated Content), staggering up content from social media in order to propel them to impressive Page Ranks, organizations are turning their focus on gathering as much social space as possible. It`s true that the rising tide of interest is directed to social content which is shared and distributed through social channels, but the question still remains – is it enough to start building a social media presence for SEO purposes and leave out the true opportunities and endorsements this sort of strategy would imply? Is it relevant to start becoming obsessed by traffic, impressions, clicks and large volumes of back-links when they truly mean nothing when compared to a long-lasting relationship with publics? In my view, the painstaking question of today`s digital media should be: What are the true measures for efficiency and success when it comes to online visibility?

The Big Era. Or, simply, Big Data.

We live in BIG times. Big moments, Big results, Big problems, Big Macs, Big shots, Big fish, Big foot, Big fan, Big mentors, The next Big thing, Big data. Big deal! Or that`s how ignorance could play it. In fact, many scholars, sociologists, economists, computer scientists, CEOs, CFOs, CMOs and so on are arguing about the advantages of leveraging big data for a variety of purposes. But is this overwhelming wave really improve our existence and the way we process information? In particular, are organizations effectively and efficiently using the overflow of data for building intelligence in order to meet future socio-economical demands?

The large sets of data are too much for standard software to analyze and, as such, new, optimized systems developed for data integration, manipulation and processing are now starting to become mandatory. Data aggregation is particularly difficult especially in terms of acquiring significant connections between important pieces of information. Easily accessible information does not necessarily mean we can easily identify patterns leading to a specific useful direction, for example, in building competitive intelligence.

This is why companies must invest in new systems to effectively manage big data. And no, I am not referring to big companies like Google, eBay, LinkedIn, Facebook built around this concept from the very beginning. I am talking about traditional companies, which are now dealing with the merge of traditional information and communication systems with the new infrastructures that haven`t existed before.

Conclusion? Go BIG or Go Home!

A critical perspective on the Learning Organization theory

Glasmeier et al. (1998) revealed some weak points of the learning organization model:  the lack of a universally accepted definition of firm learning and misuse of terms; the lack of understanding of the nature of learning in organizations; little knowledge about how companies determine their need to acquire new information; a firm’s ability to absorb new information is a function of the previous experiences; learning is history dependent. The remarks of the authors focused on the definition and nature of learning, and on the way information is transformed in knowledge.

The critiques could be continued with several assumptions about the missing connections in the social and emotional continuum of the organization. (a) Learning is not only cognition, is also emotional growth and change for individuals. The way in which individuals integrate information in knowledge is personal (not saying is unique), thus the effectiveness of models in this aspect is doubtful. (b) Organizational identity is a dynamic concept, tied with the development experiences, and should play a major role in generating the learning organization. (c) The theory speaks very little of the aim of organizational learning: organizations learn not only for their business objectives, but for their mission’s fulfillment. The mission includes also playing a “social role” in the entire living that integrates the organization. (d) There were several attempts to compose “recipes” for building a learning organization; but in the authentic meaning a learning organization could only “grow naturally”. Items like trust, commitment and cohesion become important as possible generative factors, as frames for interpreting reality.

Developments of the Learning Organization theory

The learning organization was defined as “an organization that is continually expanding its capacity to create the future. For such an organization, it is not enough merely to survive (…) adaptive learning must be joined with generative learning, learning that enhances the capacity to create” (Senge, 1990, 14). Senge proposes “five disciplines” for building a learning organization (Senge, 1990, 6-11): renounce to the old way of thinking (mental models), become committed to lifelong learning (personal mastery), gain the connection to the whole (systems thinking), share a common vision with all the team (shared vision), and work together for the achievement of the vision (team learning). The five elements were not new, but the model in which they were integrated was powerful enough to create a management orientation in North American area.

The initial theory was developed by other contributions. Lichtenstein (2000) proposed the term generative knowledge and insisted that all decision makers must move beyond a rational model of understanding to a transactional, open-minded and social model. Ratner (1997, 1-34) defined the learning organization as “one in which people at all levels are increasing their capacity to produce results they really care about.” Levine (2001) described the learning organization profile as being characterized by remembrance and learning, and using collective recording in work processes and decision-making, since learning is applied to produce or change strategies and procedures. Digenti (1998) explored the notion of learning community as a ground for building the learning organization, through: promoting socially responsible behaviors; visions and values; building cognitive skills inside the community. Thus, the organization could integrate the “whole self” of individuals in the organization. The concept of learning community was a step forward in defining larger social collective profiles; in some books appeared the concept “learning society”(as, for example, Raven and Stevenson, 2001).  In comparison with the learning organization, the learning community is a superior stage, because supposes a strong sense of identity and a high level of cohesion and trust.

Organizational Learning versus The Learning Organization: a comparison

In the general field of learning in organizations, confusion between Organizational Learning and Learning Organization is maintained and even intensified by several aspects. The two perspectives are often confused, because of the symmetry of terms. Second, “organizational learning” is used in many situations with the old technical meaning (reception and storage of information), which confuses more the receptors of studies. Third, the expression “learning organization” determined, for a segment of researchers, the idea that only educational organizations could be the subject of this orientation (assimilating in a wrong way the concept of learning organization with schools, universities or research centers).

From the two definitions cited before we can see that the spheres of the two concepts have something in common, but are not the same. Still, the two concepts and the scientific orientations need to be characterized after their main features.

The theoretical ground for OL is larger, providing more possibilities of development in the future). The evolution of theories in social sciences shows that an interdisciplinary ground is more nurturing for further development, compared to narrow and specialized paths. By the opposite, LO capacity to bring novelty of theory is limited to propose only related concepts (as the examples given above, learning community or evolving organization). The age of OL perspective is double than the age of LO, which proves also a greater capacity to survive and develop for the former perspective. And, if someone would evaluate the circulation between the two perspectives, would identify a traffic of ideas from OL to LO, but little traffic in the reverse direction.

Finally, the empirical field is not so generous in case of LO as intended by Peter Senge and his followers. On one hand, the percentage of studies in this school using original empirical data is under 50%. On the other hand, the application of the concept in the real organizational environment proved to be limited (questions were raised if “learning organizations” really exist or could be created in reality, following the various paths proposed by LO studies).