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There have been wide ranging trends that have threatened and challenged the operations management of business from its conception. Work life balance is an issue we have created for ourselves and seem to continually struggle with in terms of dealing with and minimizing impacts on operations. Yet before the Industrial Revolution, the boundaries between “work” and “life” fundamentally did not exist, and certainly this kind of conversation topic or debate in a modern western society would be utterly perplexing, begging us to question the underlying culture in society. But whilst culture may have featured as the imperative focus of organisational studies in the past, “connectivity” is the salient new metaphoric alternative (Kolb, 2008).
There are so many examples of discussion, debate and conversation around the unsustainable damage we are enforcing on the earth. Considering the trends broadly; as a society and as a planet, we acknowledge broadly that the way we are going is not right fundamentally. Sustainable communities and economies, TED, New Economic Forum (also referred to as nef) and others are demonstrations of this ongoing desire and aspiration for sustainable growth. Millennials, who were the teenagers of the turn of the millennium, are the highest users of SNSs. (Pew Research Centre, 2010) Born into a “connected reality” one would easily assume they would be in a prime position to make advantage from the efficiencies afforded by SNSs. Similarly, while SMEs are renowned for being dynamic and responsive to changes (Matthews, 2005, Read, 2007, Forum, 2010), their small size causes some disadvantages that will not easily be overcome in any practical manner. But when considering the use of SNSs, an SME’s size is a definite advantage (ANZ 2009). Particularly relevant in customer relations management (CRM), consider the audacious goal of personal and individualised responses, which is more realistic with a smaller customer base (Contributor, 2010).
Despite this, the use and integration of SNSs among SMEs and the Millennial generation in particular has been complicated and decidedly patchy. “Millennials, whom are the highest SNS users among the generations, overall, they don’t seem to perceive the realistic potential for value within SNSs. With forty five percent of them recognizing there may be some potential to influence positive change, they didn’t demonstrate the same optimism and positivity for SNSs as they did for the state of the economy (Pew Research Report, 2009). The baby boomers however, have been the strongest uses of SNSs commercially since their conception and are increasingly experimenting. Perhaps due to the amount of effort which is put into ensuring they have training and resources to understand these SNSs, they are generally still the most innovative and some incredibly innovative campaigns’ and initiatives have been demonstrated (one of my favorites’, the Unilever, Marmite campaign is referenced online).
When looking into this tension which was apparent in review, the capabilities of some may have been a result of the limited uptake, yet most Millennials being active within the social arena, definitely had the skills, but appear to, typically to our stereotype, to not act upon it (Pew Research Centre, 2009). However it is important to remember, growing through these changes, the opinion of Millennials and understanding of such ICTs is bound to be complicated. As SNSs become more prolific within communities the work place became involved. Largely for the most part, at least initially, offices called for a complete ban on such sites[i]. Furthermore, brought up with “internet predators” the largest concern for many of our parents, whom were also experiencing the changes and developments in society at a different stage of their life, have interpreting and learnt from these experience very differently. However we know better and even more driving than that, the interconnectedness of today’s societies creates the issues related to such as “latent potentiality” and “unknowable pervasiveness” (Kolb, 2008) have anything to do with this trend. Kolb (2002) describes these phenomena in terms that an interconnected world brings uncertainty as one cannot ever fully grasp the implications of the multitudinous and varied connections (p5). If Millennials are generally more capable of understanding the unlimited potential for danger through networks, and maybe hence why they chose to stay off. But that reasoning is flawed as they still participate in these constructs. Potentially, but only being on SNSs like Facebook will be the concern for them in the future. We are no longer in a situation where we can control the information released about any one entity. As such, the best for of defence is to out produce everyone else.
Furthermore, there are constantly new and developing tools available widely and I have personally discovered a number of key articles which were incredibly valuable tools (see my online full reference lisle here for more details). This goes hand in hand with another potential impact of this research, which is encouraging Millennials, who are for the most part technically capable, to use innovative and creative approaches to utilising and integrating these ongoing and developing ICTs, as we will be models for the next generation. For now, taking example from our elders appears to remain sound advice as they navigate the economic arenas of SNSs. By doing so, there is hope to use these in combination with our social and community rooted aspirations, to form a new sustainable and commercially viable form of “enterprise” which suits our current contexts.
Despite these factors, the majority of innovative uses of SNSs in any setting beyond the “social” are demonstrated by older, larger enterprises and often what are thought of as less technically capable older generations, but often also increasingly much more technology savvy Transitionals (Pew Research Center, 2010) . Some of the most helpful and knowledgeable YouTube instructional subscriptions I have are created by a 13 year old American. And I expected this will be increasingly more common. But rather than furiously attempting to increase the security and approach the new problems, with the old models and structures.
It appears that SMEs are widely not making the most of SNSs or the potential for benefit they offer. Some reports claimed they were feeling overwhelmed by the resources available to them. However, being that they, according to literature and common belief, as the more flexible and adaptable entity when compared to the large multinationals whom are hindered by their own bureaucracy and process which is no longer suited in the constantly adapting environments of today. Furthermore, and with potentially more value (as well as potential hazards) to owners / managers is how time is managed both at an individual and also at organisational level when it comes to work. If the boundaries of work and life are irreversibly intertwined already for many workers, the stereotypically self reliant, over worked owner / manager types are understandably going to experience overload at some point.
This could be perceived as an advantage by SMEs many of whom struggle to commit to ongoing expense and haste of full time employees, as the trend towards casual and project based employment increases. Owner/managers will be required to actively consider how they manage this new form of speedy and connected business. The lack of resourcing capabilities within SMEs may explain the lack of uptake with SNSs also. However it is important that the value of these be appreciated by the SME sector, as the unique reality is that the advantages afforded to multinational corporations through their size in terms of resources and human capability, can equally be available to SMEs through collaboration. SNSs are the key link, providing us with new and more effective ways to negotiate, organise and facilitate such collaborations.
Metcalfe’s law, which has been referenced throughout reviews of reports from the Ministry of Economic Development specifically, may assist understanding of SNSs from varying perspective. Metcalfe’s law states that ‘as a network grows, the value of being connected to it grows exponentially, while the cost per user remains the same or even decreases’ (MED, 2000b, p,3). This alone demonstrates if not the value for buying into SNSs potential, the disadvantages of not doing so would be catastrophic (Qualman, 2007).
By covering an area so vastly reviewed and discussed, which is constantly updated and is currently undergoing massive changes as it influences social trends, it is easy for research to balloon into excessive amounts of material; from review articles, to blogs, to webinars, “white papers”, industry discussion documents, specialized industry and enterprise interest groups. All provided incredibly rich sources of data, invaluable review which assist ongoing business development. After considering the many various facets and areas of these research topics and getting lost in the piles of data, and masses of links and articles on numerous occasions, a few things became really apparent to me. Several of the network constructs I had been considering obtained a more personal relevance to me over the turn of this process.
In effect, I explored the concepts I was researching in a kind of conceptual way through the literature, debates, videos, blogs, articles and other resources, whilst also practically experiencing it, through my accessing of resources, use of social media tools and book-marking services for example. Essentially the process I adopted is most effectively approached when attempting goal-orientated social networking, by extending your connections you can find additional benefit shown. Particularly at the third stage is generally the largest size New Zealand businesses can attain before moving off shore. The embeddedness and integrative nature of technologies and ICTs could not be more evident to me as it is through practical experience, particularly relevant whilst reviewing and studying similar areas and as such, am have a heightened awareness.
Unconsciously and rather as a by-product of the research aims rather than a specific intention, this process has incorporated an element of deductive research methods. By “trailing” the net I managed to find a number of these incredibly valuable and beneficial resources. Whilst conducting this review I have read and analysed many different perspectives and understandings of the benefits, shortcomings, barriers and possibilities of SNSs, but perhaps not surprisingly it is my personal real life experience which has shocked me the most. The realities of hyper-connectivity and information overload were both things I encountered in this review.
When presented from this perspective it is no wonder many feel overwhelmed by social media and few are able to see the potential for opportunities to improve efficiencies and create value. We need to focus on capability and confidence of users going forward and ensure the robustness and security of systems to ensure a smooth marriage between the two. While it is obvious that the need for individual change in society (Friedman, 2007), and developing technologies becomes more intrusive as explored above. There will be intrinsic tensions and complications as part of this development.
Whilst the concerns of security and privacy on a micro level (from the perspective of the individual) appear at the forefront, there are mixed statistical reports around the reality of this (MED, 2000) Fresh from the latest blog comes evidence to suggest this is not such a problem after all (eMarketer, 2010). Despite the statistical evidence, it is important to remember that while there is a very real risk and danger that can be uncovered through increased information sharing, it is not that this is a new risk. There are examples which can be found throughout history of unsavoury characters within society, our digital formats now just require them to be navigated in an alternative format.