Thursday, September 16, 2010

Small Nonprofits and the Social Media RT - Make Your Brain Work for its Supper

image via Carolyn Essert-Villard

I have a hungry brain – if I don’t feed it new ideas and information regularly, it starts to eat itself out of boredom. With the internet, I have a very large hunting range which takes me from the mountains of Science and Academia to Silicon Valley, from the collaborative social media communities on the outskirts of Nonprofit/Social Good to the silly whimsy of LOLCats. But just to keep my brain fed isn’t the only reason I’m all over the interwebs.

Feed Me, Seymour; I'm Hungry

I was reading a veritable storm up today in the Tribal Leadership section of the bnet bookstore, when I ran across the headline “Employees Down in the Dumps? That’s Great News!” Muttering, “WTH?” I read Dave Logan’s post on why the recession may be a good thing for leadership – because it disabuses us of the notion that “greatness was easy” if we followed simplistic solutions. As Logan puts it:

We’ve gone through a decade when companies became stupid and managers focused on simplistic solutions. Even universities got into the act by suggesting that the road to success is merely a degree away. We’re grieving our beliefs that we can be saved by moving our collective cheese, exorcising the five dysfunctions of teams, tapping “The Secret,” or transporting our penguins to a new iceberg.

And I’m worried about something similar happening in social media, especially with respect to nonprofits. Not to say that any of you are looking at or employing simplistic solutions in trying to achieve your mission-related goals, but newcomers or those who are unsure of their skills may become hungry for checklists or easy-to-absorb maxims about how to increase their community or enhance interaction with their stakeholders.

On any given day, I often see retweets on Twitter of the latest blogpost or activity by well-known NP tech or social media heavy-hitters. If you have a column display with all the Tweets with the hashtag “nonprofit,” you’ll know what I’m talking about. These people routinely give great advice and so it’s normal to want to share it. But in most cases, forwarding the information is preaching to the choir. If I’m looking for best practices and information to help my nonprofit, I’m probably already reading the posts of the people whose tweets are being shared so liberally (if I’m not, then I haven’t done my homework in identifying the thought leaders in my community).

Yes, They're Smart, But -

Even though I value the thinking of these people, they are not the only ones who can think, and if I continually make a meal out of what they’re thinking and nothing else, then I am depending on a simplistic solution of my own devising – read this, and you shall be saved.

I don’t just want to know what they think – I want to know what you think about what they think; whether or not you’ve implemented some or all of their solutions and what you learned from it. I want to know what ideas you got from reading about the ruins buried under Phoenix, AZ and how it applies to what you’re trying to accomplish.

Accept No Substitutes

As Dave Logan implies, success is not easy, leadership is not easy, greatness is not easy, and every small nonprofit knows this. There can be no substitute for taking in a new viewpoint, combining it with facts and experience, and coming up with a thought that is yours alone.

To me, this the real value of the knowledge and experiences so readily available on the internet and through social media. Don’t pass up the opportunity to not just feed your brain, but to make it work.

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