Thursday, March 19, 2015

Being There

Some learning happens just from being there. The kid who grows up in an environment surrounded by the Chief Executive Officer buddies of Mom and Dad doesn't feel intimidated by them. The have seen that they are just big kids who are silly sometimes and don't have everything figured out. Part of the problem of transforming a society is that social capital like this is very much wound up in our tribes. Some lessons are learnt around the braai when you aren't wearing your serious face. Someone can be incredibly intelligent and hard working but they just don't know how to relate on the more subtle level. Karabo told the beautiful story of the value of an entire family prioritising education where the elder members become custodians of a legacy of progress. It is inspiring.

Some things need to be done consciously to start to turn this sort of progress into a wave. The importance of who you know to learning can be diminished by new technology. Social media like twitter now provides an unfiltered filter to many of the world's leading thinkers. In theory we are getting to the point where all you need to do to have a fancy education is to find your own river. The content and discussion comes near free.

It is the social education which isn't broken down by accident or by theoretical availability. That only comes through getting to know people. One of the toughest lessons to learn in the world of business is that it isn't about what you know, how hard you work or how much you deserve something. Supply and demand drive the bus. That doesn't mean we can't choose to focus on more important things once we have freed ourselves (or while we are freeing ourselves). One of the biggest tools in creating or understanding demand is understanding people. Understanding each other. That is why intellect or hard work can't compensate for a lack of basic social skills.

Twitter provides access to amazing people we don't know (and the opportunity to get to know them if we add value). Facebook links us to people we already know. LinkedIn as a virtual business card provides up to date info on on work on colleagues and clients we have met. Tinder and the like attempt to create new links. Used properly, technology can provide a catalyst for real world interaction. When I bump into friends that read my blog, we almost immediately chat about something meaningful to both of us rather than traditional small talk. We may meet up on the back of some online banter. Why can't the same be true for breaking down traditional social capital barriers?

You can be an elder to more than your own family. One day, they will all be family.
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