The social media explosion is temporary---or at least I hope it is. As more people learn how to fish, there won't be the need for people like me to toss halibut into the throng of open mouths---or at least I hope so.
Sometimes I do have pangs of doubt whether the current crop of policy makers and leaders will ever graduate beyond their current levels. Maybe the eventual evolution of the common body of knowledge will be due to the replacement of one generational talent pool for another. Maybe, eventually, I won't have to explain Boolean search strategies to people, not because eventually people will understand the how-tos that people like me are putting out, but that they will be replaced by new blood or the programs themselves will evolve to make the Semantic Web a reality.
Maybe that's always the way things work. Perhaps we all hit a certain wall when it comes to new ideas or approaches. While many can adapt and learn, maybe the majority of people reach some sort of innovation saturation? Could be. I know I hit a wall with math. Calculus. I gave up---went to philosophy and literature and never looked back. If the world was waiting for me to engineer a bridge somewhere, it was out of luck until they start putting a "build me a bridge" button on these graphic calculators.
Most of you are probably wondering what the hell I'm getting at. Fair enough.
Last week I got an email that highlights a type of email I routinely get. Now, before we continue, I am going to qualify all of this by removing any sense of elitism or a patronizing tone. If the points of this post are true, I too will fall victim to my own saturation of innovation where my mind will be unwilling or unable to further redefine its information-processing structures. So this isn't a "old people don't get it" post in the slightest.
Anyway, email. About a month ago I led a faculty bible study. It was on the passage of the Christian Scriptures where Jesus led his disciples to Caesarea Philippi and made the speech about "On this rock, I'll build my church." That whole thing. I opened up with a short side study, discussing how old the disciples probably were before moving on to the rest of things.
I talked about how I'd heard a bible teacher named Ray Van Der Laan give a pitch years ago, showing that the disciples were probably all teenagers. This was how old disciples usually were in the culture and time: teens. I meant it as a quick intro to the rest of the study, but people at the session were blown away.
"That makes sense!"
"I've always wondered about that."
"I've never heard that before."
"Where did you find that?"
"Where are your sources?"
"How can I read your information?"
I told them the Web. Google the teacher I'd mentioned. They went away astonished and paid little attention to the actual study....I guess I should have focused on the age thing.
About a week later, I was still getting emails, asking where to go and what Web site to look at. I had to tell them it wasn't in one neat package, but the information was across several sites. Google was their friend. But that's where I assumed people could find out information, and I started to think again on how some groups, no matter how many times you coach them through something, can't figure things out.
Again, not an intelligence or age thing, but some people will never learn how to adapt to new technological environments. Some people just can't get the concept of fishing.
This final email that set off this post arrived a few days ago.
"SSG Salmons, where did you get your information for that study last month? I'm giving a session and want to bring up the young disciple idea. Fascinating."
I had to break it down. Google the teacher's name "Ray Van Der Laan." That would bring up every document he's remotely associated with. By adding words after the name, you can further exclude irrelevant searches. Try adding the phrase "disciples were teenagers." That should bring up the list of posts I had scanned through to refresh my sources.
A few minutes later...
"SSG Salmons, I don't see anything."
I typed in the search string. Then looked down the list. There they were, the articles I'd seen before. I picked out the first few, including the "teenage posse" one that had been the most helpful.
A few minutes later...
Our educational philosophy focuses on questions and answers. I think this has a tendency to lobotomize us to adaptation and innovation. We expect something to just work.
Car breaks? Someone fix it. "It won't make a 'vroooooooom!' anymore!" Computer has an error? "My Yahoo! is broken!"
Classical education focuses on how to think. It's not in the lists of facts that can be digested like a machine, but it's about cultivating the character of a thinking person. In Rabbinic teaching, questions are answered by other questions.
"What is 6 + 4?" a teacher will ask.
"What is 5 x 2?" a student will respond. It shows that the student not only knows the answer, but can move the discussion further.
We don't do that anymore, it's all just quantifiable rote memorization and minimized thought. Ninety six percent? Great, "A+". Ninety six credit hours? Great, bachelor's degree.
So when a new paradigm like social media enters the fray and challenges us to redefine how we perceive and interact with social units, geographical and notional affiliations, or even data itself; many of us cannot figure it out. It's me and Calculus. Ugh! My brain is teh hurts!
So, to help, guys like me who haven't reached their innovation saturation levels, Google the term "social media training" and teach ourselves. A year later, I'm speaking at seminars, companies and governmental organizations throughout the world because I'm soooo knowledgable. If only people knew....
Granted, I know I can put on a good show, and I am genuinely flattered at the attention; but as we move forward, I do grow concerned that we'll have to wait for many to retire or move on to get people in positions who haven't become saturated.
And then, eventually (although "eventually" is happening faster and faster these days), I'll hit my ceiling too. My processor won't be able to handle the load. I'll check out, and someone else will step in who can run two or three computers at once, type two letters simultaneously and watch seven movies concurrently with commenting on a quantum mechanics blog.
Meanwhile, I'm available to give training to you and your employees on how to effectively leverage social media trends in your workplace and on your external-facing communication initiatives to increase the effectiveness of your organization.