Socio-Digital Technologies

Socio-Digital Technologies

DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-2836-6.ch006


Organizations of all kinds, and their leaders at every level, have already been impacted significantly by socio-digital technology and the chances are that we “ain’t seen nothing yet.” The growth of completely new industries allied to increasing levels and integration of global digitally connected environments across all domains of personal and professional life open up new opportunities whilst also demanding more mental flexibility, and emotional adaptability, as well as new business focus. Traditional notions of subordinates and super-ordinates and associated cultures are being degraded or destroyed. Organizations that fail to co-evolve and transcend their old business paradigms will suffer. This chapter presents a detailed overview and discussion of present and future trends based on an exhaustive literature review and in-depth practitioner know-how. The impact in business, government, and educational environments is described, including how the coinciding interests of these important communities are being addressed.
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We can surely state without fear of contradiction that the rise of the knowledge age has begun in earnest. Global digitization really took off in the last decade of the 20th century, accelerating exponentially thereafter with the opening of the internet and worldwide web. There are many novel technological developments of interest. Some of these innovative devices and systems are building on earlier breakthroughs, including flexible display technology to reduce glass substrates that are expected to be designed and built into Smartphone and tablet PCs according to the Samsung Economic Research Institute (SERI, 2011).Other innovations address perceived gaps in the market, such as the web applications which don’t need to be tailored for different operating systems in the devices into which they are incorporated e.g. PCs or TVs (SERI, 2011). However, in this chapter we are interested in those ‘sociable’ applications of technology which are designed to facilitate digitally-mediated, human interaction rather than device to device interfaces.

In the last two decades, humans in many organizations, and many regions of the world, have not only been electronically connected, but have also been confronted with increasingly rapid and seismic cultural changes, rupturing any sense of isolation in their worldview. The shift to the East has provoked comment from China, one of the emerging ‘BRIC’ (Brazil, Russia, India and China) countries. In August 2005, the prime minister of China stated that: “The world’s competition in future will be the competition of intellectual property” (Yu, 2006, p. 81).

The emergence and rapid growth of completely new industries, allied to increasing levels and integration of global digital connectivity across all domains of personal and professional life, has opened up new horizons and opportunities on the one hand, whilst also demanding more mental flexibility, emotional adaptability, as well as a sustainable and customer-centric focus (Jaruzelski et al., 2011; McKinsey Global Survey, 2011). The number of people following Twitter postings from companies soared by 241% in 2011, compared to 2010, and 84% of the top 100 companies in the Fortune 500 have more than one social networking site (Sung-Min, 2011).

What has emerged from this interconnectedness of people, networks of allied organizations and supply chains, in these digitally connected environments operating across continents and time zones, is awareness that the formal hierarchy has to be reworked or radically changed to operate effectively in harmony with the evolving heterarchy (Eijkman, 2010a/b/c; Witchalls, 2011). We’re all now learning and participating together in this emergent, global communication and commodity environment; leaders, followers, customers, producers and distributors. Global trends suggest that future leaders will have to learn to build trust and exercise leadership at a distance. Leaders will also have opportunities to use the same social media to keep in touch, find out about customers’ needs and wants, investigate complaints, and develop new product lines, services, or new businesses. However, they will have less direct control of areas such as branding, due to the real-time world where customers use social media to connect, and implicitly to engage in forms of viral marketing through recommendations of products or services to friends (Oxford Economics, 2011).

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