Magazine article CRM Magazine

The Age of Collaboration: Why Mark Zuckerberg Is Not the Father of Social Networking

Magazine article CRM Magazine

The Age of Collaboration: Why Mark Zuckerberg Is Not the Father of Social Networking

Article excerpt

WE'VE COME to a point where it takes a village to get business done. That's neither good nor bad, just the truth. Fortunately, if you think of your company as that village, then social, mobile, cloud, and analytic tools came along at just the right time. Or did they?

About 10 years ago, I started covering social networking and analytics. There were no social media products on the market, save for things like Plaxo and LinkedIn, which simply completed the Kevin Bacon game in software and made making connections in business much easier. And while analytics had been a serious pursuit for decades, you still needed to be a statistician to do useful things there.

Interestingly, Harvard had a great deal to do with the evolution of social networking and the media that followed. You are, no doubt, familiar with the exploits of one Mark Zuckerberg and his friends and enemies at Harvard. But did you know that a completely different generation of researchers got the ball rolling at Harvard before Zuckerberg was even born? I mean here the scholar Harrison White, who worked in the Harvard Department of Social Relations and got some of the mathematical underpinnings down, and Stanley Milgram, who inspired the Kevin Bacon game as a way of explaining it all.

Working independently, White and Milgram each contributed to the idea that it is weak ties that give human societies such resilience. That all happened in the 1960s, and for a long time, not much happened other than an obscure actor (Bacon) becoming accidentally famous. But fast-forward decades, and computing power and networking achieved the critical mass needed to power software designed to serve up the loose bonds on a screen. Now hold that thought.

At the same time, we underwent a revolution in information processing such that the age we live in has become known as the Information Age, on the same level as the Steam Age or, for that matter, the Stone Age. What's somewhat shocking is that our age has lasted only a few decades while the Stone Age lasted much, much longer.

Now come back to the original question. Did social, mobile, analytics, and cloud technology just happen to come along at the right time? …

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