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March 31, 2009

The age of expression

In 1968, at the height of the hippie movement and free love, the musical Hair sang it out: ‘This is the dawning of the Age of Aquarius’.

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Picture by anela. ©anela. All rights reserved.

I think that time reflects the first sensory stirrings of something that social communities are now bringing to fruition. The age of aquarius has paved the way for the age of expression.

The age of expression goes beyond having a conversation; what counts is the moment when people actually want to get onboard with your brand. Social marketing that’s really sticky is about putting yourself out there as a corporate or personal offer. Disintermediation, after all, can be harsh to take. Tacit judgements become a overt part of the equation in the social relationship, which calls for authenticity, blatant integrity, and new ways of behaving.

Social platforms and applications across the spectrum, from Facebook to Twitter to Skype, they all nudge people towards various forms of self-expression and elicit different preferences and, in the information age, they are not a management tool or form of information exchange that plays to everyone’s strengths in the same way.

Some of the current tensions we're experiencing now, commercially and socially, and some of the resistance to social marketing that exists within established management structures, comes from this.

A look at the variously described Keirsey Temperament Sorter will tell you, for example, that expressive communication is an anathema to analytical types and not everyone is comfortable with people over data, or the extraversion of putting it out there over the introversion of keeping it to oneself. Even for those who do, a little judicious judgement may be necessary. Getting social can be a bumpy road.

Having said that, as one of my favourite paradoxes of all time, the analytical type that will prefer to avoid socially oriented contact and extroverted expression, has become perhaps the greatest architect of the new social age.

In that regard, all points of the social compass point towards a coming together of data and community dynamics, where finding and articulating one’s voice becomes a value we can define and measure.

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Analytical temperaments work differently online compared to in real life. Online, process management is automated but in organizations a huge amount of human resource is spent on analytical transactions which can detract from the more useful activity of communicating. Corporates are having to work out what happens with the multiple, or multiplied, voices within their business, as are governments, in the age of self-expression.

Corporates can’t all talk with the same voice, and that’s a challenge, but a visceral business, that’s in tune with itself, is able to sing with the same voice. That’s the opportunity.

And beyond the need for conversation is the need for a new economic substance and a shared wealth to come from it. How people, businesses and brands develop in these times will depend on their capability to express themselves and generate the kind of formative ties that bind.

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The age of expression is calling out for the kind of leaders than can be accepted by networks as well as hierarchies, and that can channel self expression positively into creating champions for their businesses to exist alongside them.

More than conversation, the power of the expressive age really peaks where it encourages and engenders commitment and contribution. That’s where we have to go to create the greatest potential we have available, and that’s how, I think, the age of aquarius can be converted into a fully realized prize in this new age of self expression.

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