If you’re paying attention at all these days, decentralisation is everywhere. Crowdsourcing, microbrands, personal branding – The Cult of Me is in full swing, and it’s leaving a lot of people really puzzled as to how they can either not fall behind, or avoid the trend all together. Here’s a hint: you can’t avoid it. But you can weather it and come out on top. Especially if you treat it with respect.
Some background. Twitter. You’ve heard of it, right? If ever there was an example of perfect Cult of Me behaviour, this is it. You get on, you follow people, they reciprocate, and soon hundreds of thousands of people are on your list of followers. It’s a daunting task, imagining that thirty thousand, a hundred thousand, a quarter million (ok, a stretch), even a million (@stephenfry) people might just be hanging on your every tweet – it’s a weight and a responsibility. Or is it?
Most online community has very little reliable hierarchy. In many cases, the people setting up the systems sit back and let others participate. They can be called upon in extremis for moderation, yes, but never for motivation. Reliable hierarchy has been the driving thrust of progress for a long time – and it’s useful, the way having the sharp end on front of the spear when you throw it. What the trend of decentralisation does is seemingly remove the shaft and turn everyone into individual spearheads going for their own targets, with no weight behind them. When you’re trying to hit a broad target, grapeshot works wonderfully, if the target’s soft.
But where’s the hierarchy? That’s the wrong question to ask, isn’t it? The question I’d like you to ask is not where has the hierarchy gone – there are still leaders, and just about everyone has followers.
You’re a leader. Face it. Own up to it. Even if you lead your friends to coffee once a month, you’re leading, especially if you have any presence on the web. What are you doing with that leadership potential?
The questions I want you to ask are, firstly, when you send out your followers to get their followers and aim at a target, what would the action look like? Are you at the head of the spear, with everyone you have access to helping to create momentum for you to move forward and pierce to the heart of your goal? Or were you playing catapult and sending out thousands of tiny pieces of ammo in an effort to spread your effectiveness over a wider area? And, secondly, how much effort did you put into deciding which method to use, if any at all? How much energy did you devote to making sure the approach you used was the most appropriate for the situation?