The age of vulnerability

vulnerable

Katharine Viner, Deputy Editor of the Guardian newspaper, delivered a tremendous speech recently about how the digital transformation affects journalism. Check it out here, or if you don’t have a lot of time, read this excellent summary from PaidContent.

Her basic point: digital changes everything. It’s not just a new platform for the same old thing. It’s a fundamentally different way of doing business as a journalist.

I’d say the same thing is true of any business that is being disrupted by the instant and interactive availability of information (which is just about any business these days).

Viner’s knock-out insight is that telling stories (aka being a journalist) these days requires openness and interaction with the audience. No longer do the masses just sit back and buy whatever you are selling (or writing). They have a voice and will use it, either in comments, on Facebook and Twitter or on their own web sites.

What this means is saying you are right because you own the printing press, or the TV transmitter, or the factory, or the restaurant is no longer enough. It’s a dialog, a more genuine human interaction.

And here’s what is really cool: real, valuable human interaction requires vulnerability. If you are really open to hearing from the other person, you are opening yourself to hearing things you may not like: criticism, better ideas, raw emotion, etc. You might even fail, drive away readers or just plain blow it.

Opening to these possibilities is anathema to traditional business (after all, business is all about eliminating vulnerabilities) and to most humans. It takes a lot of self-assuredness and humility to put yourself out in public with a statement, product, flavor or style of dress.

And, it’s also where the biggest payoff is for us as individuals and as businesses.

If we live our lives or run our businesses from impregnability, we are immune to criticism or feedback or competition. We also are immune to connection, love, learning and deep creativity.

For a good dive into this side of the vulnerability equation, check out this TED talk from Brene´Brown.

So the good news about disruption is that it gives us the chance as businesses and as individuals to become vulnerable and reap the greater rewards of connection, rather than spend our time building ever-higher ramparts and cutting ourselves off.

Photo: Attribution Some rights reserved by Peter Alfred Hess

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