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Swarming, Mobility, Speed and Digital Disruptions

by Kevin Benedict

March 22, 2013

Social media, mobile communications, analytics, cloud services (SMAC) and other digital disruptors are introducing crazy new dynamics into our industries, markets, businesses, management disciplines, politics and even our culture today.  I believe we have only just begun to recognize some of the impacts of these disruptions.   
We use Facebook to schedule the protests, Twitter to coordinate and YouTube to tell the world. ~ Egyptian Activist
One of the impacts of digital disruptors is the increasing emergence of swarming or swarm intelligence. Here is a definition, “Swarming involves the use of decentralized forces against something, in a manner that emphasizes mobility, communication, autonomy and coordination or synchronization.” ~ Wikipedia
Swarming, although perhaps unrecognized, is precisely what the Egyptian Activist was referring to in the above quote.  The ability for autonomous or semi-autonomous groups to work closely together because of mobile communications, social media and the ability to coordinate or synchronize one’s actions, locations, status and intentions to accomplish a joint goal.
Swarming can be a powerful force multiplier as well, where fewer resources, with mobile communications, social media, good intelligence and coordination can accomplish more than by working alone and uncoordinated.
Nearly every day we witness demonstrations of how spontaneous social media based campaigns are changing our world.  W e see companies changing policies and practices due to near-real-time feedback from the market swarm.
In the new book from Forrester Executive, James McQuivey, titled Digital Disruption, he describes how to embrace digital disruptions using what I view as a swarm strategies, "Abandon traditional 'return on investment' metrics and instead, for digitally disruptive initiatives, adopt ROD—'return on disruption.' Where the goal in ROI is to generate a known return from a known investment, the goal in ROD is to invest as little as possible, placing quick, cheap bets on the initiatives with the largest possible breakout success."  Once you see a success, swarm it! Communicate it!  Synchronize around it!  Invest in it.  Run with it.
I see the same approach emerging today in marketing.  Let’s try a variety of approaches to marketing and once the successful ones emerge, invest in them.  
There is so much we don’t know.  There is so much happening at such a fast pace in social media that we cannot effectively plan for or anticipate.  New management strategies, such as swarming, must emerge to address this rapid pace of change.


Kevin Benedict, Head Analyst for Social, Mobile, Analytics and Cloud (SMAC) Cognizant

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Full Disclosure: These are my personal opinions. No company is silly enough to claim them. I am a mobility and SMAC analyst, consultant and writer. I work with and have worked with many of the companies mentioned in my articles.

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