Back in 1990, John Guare wrote a play called Six Degrees of Separation. Three years later, that play led to a film with the same title starring Stockard Channing, Will Smith, Donald Sutherland and Ian McKellen.
The premise of Six Degrees was simple . . . and stunning. Everyone on the planet is linked with every other person by a human network chain that numbers a maximum of six people.
This skin-tight world meshes with our mental map of a globe shrunk through information and communications technologies.
It sounds right, but is it real?
Wikipedia cites a platform application for Facebook attributed to Karl Bunyan in December 2009. It showed that indeed the average separation between members of the multi-millioned Facebook community was 5.73.
This snowball of truth – the unassailable extent of interrelatedness between people everywhere – has roared down the mountainside, gaining incredible mass and velocity. Twitter is yet another powerful manifestation of this shoulder-rubbing network in operation.
The impacts of instant, high-access contact are massive and multifaceted. Consider one particular arena: the speed at which businesses operate and compete.
• You can pretty much ask anybody anything, and you can ask it fast.
• You can find out instantly what people like and what they don’t.
• People can and will tell you what they will do with any good idea you give them and how they intend to use it.
Back-ended by sound technology, these are the dynamics of an incredibly fast and reliable world.
The Olde World of Business rested on the painstaking articulation of a vision. This vision lumbered along like a huge snail. It added shape and substance as the founder/entrepreneur meticulously fleshed out each detail to make the concept neat, predictable and easily replicated.
In the new business world, a founder hammers a template on a door in cyberspace, and then the fun begins. The consuming public takes the idea and kicks the tires with gusto. These individuals become an awesome fusion of focus groups and product engineers. Technology is shaping sharing. In rapid order, the world surrounding the idea shapes the idea.
In the NOW world, a business founder better be prepared to get out of the way . . . and yet not vanish. In fact, you had better be ready to participate – not as a dictator, but as a highly skilled enabler and facilitator.