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The Line Has Been Forever Blurred


Topic: In today’s democratized/crowdsourced world, where’s the line between top-down authority and wisdom of the crowd?


Situation: Late September, Pittsburgh, high-rise office building. Klein Michael Thaxton takes a business owner hostage with a knife. He appeared to have chosen his victim randomly, except for noticing the owner’s smartphone and computer that would give him e-access to the outside world.


During the five-hour ordeal, he started posting forlorn messages onto Facebook such as “ive lost everything and I aint gettin it back.”

Then, while police were trying to negotiate with him, about 700 messages were posted by fellow Facebookers. Most were expressions of love, said Police Chief Nathan Harper, “but a few were ‘ridiculous’ and others were ‘outright distasteful.'” The police asked Facebook to take down the page and they did.

This didn’t play out the way we see it on cop drama TV — crowdsourced communication is not exactly in the negotiator’s playbook.

But it’s here to stay. In situations like this. And after Hurricane Sandy, and during the Arab Spring Revolution, and while NYC police are taking down a gunman, and, and, and…  

There is no line anymore between top-down authority and the wisdom of the crowd.

And not just in social unrest or violent situations. Also in day-to-day mundane situations….like getting one’s job done.

Ten years ago, I wrote Work 2.0, addressing this very topic. (Link gets you a freebie copy.) Around the same time the Cluetrain Manifesto was penned by four Internet gadflies. Then, later, The Wisdom of Crowds, and Here Comes Everybody. And I recently released the sad-state-of-affairs Work 2.0 Ten Year Report. And, and, and… These and many others point to one undeniable fact…

The line has forever been blurred.
And our leaders, both in private and public sectors, have to start incorporating this into how they lead, and what they do.

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