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Late Bloomers and The Evolution of “Social”

“…[W]e live in a society with peculiar expectations about the time course of success. We think that if a child isn’t blossoming as fast as the others in grade school, he or she will be hard pressed to eventually flourish.”

Scott Barry Kaufman, Ph.D Candidate, Yale, Psychology Today, November 2008

The Social Evolution is in full swing. We are finally moving beyond early stage social experiments, and on to achieving transformation through distributed learning and exchange that characterize complex social behaviors.

Scott Barry Kaufman’s article on the phenomena of “late bloomers” provides an opportunity to consider an interesting metaphor on social transformation. Like late boomers in human development, social transformation is prone to the emergence of “late bloomers” too.

When explaining the phenomena of “late bloomers” Kaufman posits that child prodigies generally flourish in areas requiring limited and highly focused skill sets, for instance, chess, music and mathematics. Conversely, Kaufman says, “The more complex a trait, like intelligence, the more likely is a person to become a late bloomer, and the more ways to become one.” pg 76.

The same could be said of the evolution of all things “social” on the Web. Successful early stage social applications have often been simple. The online social world has evolved from discussion boards and forums in the 90’s, through public comment forums in the early 2000’s, media based user generated content in 2003-2004, the social portals in late 2004, and more recently “Web 2.0 “ and “Gov 2.0”.

Each iteration of “social” has spawned legions of new experts and analysts, all positing how to “do social”. For many, the challenge is as simple as knowing how to master Facebook and twitter – two remarkable phenomena. But to truly leverage “social” and more appropriately networks requires so much more.

“The more complex a trait, like intelligence, the more likely is a person to become a late bloomer, and the more ways to become one.” Kaufman, pg 76.

As “social” is added to commerce (“social commerce”), business processes (CRM) (ERP), and public involvement, success will increasingly depend upon skills required to master understanding of complex communication and behavior. Social communication and business communication will exist side by side in distributed exchange.

To master this new world – next generation social – those having a diversity of life experience will flourish. Whether organizations or business leaders, getting the most out of “social” will mean proficiency in guiding the complex.

For that reason, as in human development, “next generation social” should provide even greater opportunity for the “late bloomers” amongst us.

twitter address @kpkfusion

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Avatar photo Bill Brantley

Fascinating posting! There is a clear distinction between areas of knowledge that don’t require social interactions (chess and math) versus knowledge areas that require social interaction (negotiation, poker). I believe this is because complex systems exhibit emergent behavior and this requires a large store of experiences to help guide in understanding the new behavior. You might be interested in Philip J. Salem’s The Complexity of Human Communication as he has similar thoughts.

Daniel Bevarly

Kim, This is interesting. My comment is somewhat an aside, however. I’m thinking about generational differences when introduced to social applications. While there are limits based on what technology will and will not allow, or enable, depending on its stage of development, are there similar “restrictions” based on the age, experience, or maturity (human development) that someone brings with them when such an introduction is made, and thereby resulting in how they interpret and apply “social” in or to their environment or particular challenge? Furthermore could it create a barrier or ceiling, if you will, for future interpretation and interaction? Think about the baby-boomer’s response and adoption of social media vs. the cradle to grave individual.