I recently had the privilege of reading a truly outstanding book, and just had to interview the author to share his insights. Brian Reich is the author of Shift & Reset: Strategies for Addressing Serious Issues in a Connected Society.
It's a book that's not only a good read, but an important, solution-oriented change agent, at a time when it can seem from many perspectives as though the world is falling apart. With social and political upheavals, environmental catastrophes, unprecedented natural disasters, and other serious world issues making headlines every day, many people around the globe are wondering, what can we do? The answer, according to Reich, lies in the rapidly changing and advancing tools of new media. This book teaches companies and non-profits how to implement strategies that will truly make a difference.
Read the interview below and share your thoughts in the comments — then go buy the book!
Your new book, Shift & Reset, comes at a time when a multitude of global issues seem to be coming to a head. What do you feel is the most important concept or idea people should take away from your book?
There are two related concepts that are important: first — we need to recognize that what we are doing isn't working. If we are going to address the serious issues that exist in the world today we are going to have to think differently. Second — because we have limited time, energy and resources to apply to these challenges, we need to STOP doing things that don't work. We can't simply come up with new ideas. Those two concepts are critically important, and related.
Nancy Lublin, the Chief Old Person at DoSomething, said 'Awareness campaigns are bullshit.'Â And she's absolutely correct. Continually generating awareness is not enough to address a serious issue or solve a complex problem in our society. And of course, you can run a campaign that both raises awareness of an important issue and delivers a meaningful, measurable impact at the same time.
In Shift & Reset, you assert that many well known charity campaigns, such as the pink ribbon breast cancer campaign, are great at raising awareness but not as effective at achieving their stated missions. Haven't they raised millions for research as well?
Raising money is important. But finding solutions to the complex challenges that face our society is more important. And I don't think raising money for research is necessarily the fastest way to find a cure for something like cancer. Just recently, a group of gamers deciphered the crystal structure of a protein that causes AIDS in rhesus monkeys. It had baffled scientists for 15 years, but took gamers 10 days to solve it. Why? They approached the challenge very differently. In a connected society, we have access to people and information on a scale that wasn't possible even a few years ago. Instead of raising more money, or awareness, the organizations that are committed to addressing these issues should be doing everything they can to find solutions.
You talk about the value and power of mobilizing people for a cause. What advice do you have for organizations that want to maximize their efforts to attain their objectives?
First, organizations need to be very clear about what they can accomplish. Too many organizations promise to solve a problem, but their choices and actions are focused more on building organizational capacity, or raising awareness about an issue. Those efforts may result in compelling outcomes that organizations want to celebrate, but they are not the same as finding solutions. And when an organization sets high expectations, and can't meet them, it has a chilling effect on the willingness of the audience to get involved in the future.
As for mobilization specifically, organizations should look to identify all the steps along the path towards finding a solution and direct their supporters/audience to take actions that help move things forward. A complex problem is not going to be addressed with one simple action — and certainly not something flashy like a concert or advertising campaign — but you can make progress if you are focused on the right things. Finding incremental successes while always keeping your eye on the ultimate goal, will not only help you address a complex problem over time, but the small victories serves as a powerful incentive/motivator to keep audiences engaged and get them more deeply involved.
You are known as a new media and Web 2.0 expert. Looking to the future of technology, what do you see for "Web 3.0" and how do you think social media will evolve?
I actually think the future is less about social media and more about being truly social — appreciating more about how people get/share information, what motivates our decision-making and what we find important, and using that to understand how to develop relationships, build trust and influence shifts in behavior. The idea of being social doesn't require technology, and I think as technology and digital media become even more prominent in our society, we'll see more offline activities, more human connections being made and communities forming. The next phase of the digital age will seem like devolution in some ways (as opposed to a re-volution) because of how much we focus on the analog activities in our lives. Technology and digital media will help to enable and support the activities in our lives, but they won't be the only thing defining those activities as they can easily do now.