OPINION: Leaders in Ireland need to improve their online presence

4 Apr 2014

Emer Coleman, founder of DISRPTN

Our leaders here in Ireland have some catching up to do when it comes to their online presence if they are going to benefit from cognitive sourcing, writes Emer Coleman, founder of DISRPTN.

This column arose from several frustrating hours trying to generate some sales pipelines in Ireland for my consultancy DSRPTN. I had been hoping we could offer some Digital Leadership Workshops that might be of interest to C-suite leaders in Ireland, as well as their senior management teams. We know that digital disruption is challenging for many businesses and governments, so I quite liked the idea of doing some work at home over the course of 2014. Compare and contrast how this works in the UK and Ireland.

Here in the UK I can look for organisations or individuals who have a social presence that I can start a conversation with. I look for them on Twitter and follow them, find them on LinkedIn and either email them directly or send them an InMail. So far so good. I can also find people who are following me who can do direct introductions or recommendations, so it is a fairly frictionless process.

Because I am open and visible, companies who are using social media and who would like me to talk at an event or hold a workshop can find me easily, as was the case when Canon was looking for a panel speaker for an event. The recommendation to use me came from Tom McLoughlin in Accenture, who connected me with Bob Pickles, head of public affairs at Canon, and through that panel I met Chi Onwurah, Shadow Minister for Cabinet Office, so all in all great for me and – I hope – useful for them. Even better, I subsequently got to visit London Fashion Week at Bob’s invitation (Canon is a sponsor) and got a once-in-a-lifetime chance to see inside the photographers’ area and some great clothes (I’m not shallow at all, really).

A different story

Things don’t seem to work quite this way in Ireland. Senior leaders who I need to connect with don’t seem to be on Twitter. So you search for them on Google and then you get their LinkedIn profiles. But then they neither have contact details or quite often don’t have the facility to send InMail either. Which means that if I want to do any kind of pitch or exploration I have to email the info@ email of their organisations – which I’m guessing is not going to be seen by the right people or those with the authority to make decisions.

This is bad not only for me but for the chances of leveraging innovation into both business and government in Ireland. In order to be open for business, well you need to be open in every sense of the word. You need to understand that by working in such a closed manner you will continue to only know what you currently know and will never open yourself to the kind of serendipity on which innovation relies.

You cannot claim to be a cutting-edge consultancy or training institution if the cutting edge can’t find you. In the digital age, if you are not searchable and clickable and frictionless to connect with, how will you possibly keep your competitive advantage? How do you keep abreast of changes in business models if you are not experiencing the change that is happening all the time on the web, on mobile, in digital economies? How can you claim to be at the top of your game if the people who are shaping the futures of tomorrow are all communicating with each other but not with you?

My good friend Chris Taggart once said to me, “the only thing that matters in business today is how relevant you are and what your standing in the conversation is”. If you are absent from any conversation that I can see, then how can I judge either your relevance or your standing? How do I determine if you are a company or leader that I would like to work with and how will you ever know what I have to offer?

Innovation and information

Innovation relies heavily on information flows and not just local but global flows. I’ve been fortunate to benefit in ways, too numerous to articulate here, from the sharing of knowledge and expertise from people I am connected to online all over the world. As an individual, my world view, my knowledge, my expertise has grown exponentially with my participation in the world of social media – and that’s just me. Think of the benefit to your companies and organisations. Think of the benefit to your workers and managers of being able to connect with industry leaders, thought leaders, academics, competitors and technologists. Today you can access some of the brightest brains in the world at the click of a button.

I call this cognitive outsourcing. So you can only afford to hire a certain number of analysts or comms people or data scientists to work FOR you but you can connect with thousands who will work WITH you. Collaboration cannot happen in a vacuum and as the old saying goes from Sun Microsystems, “No matter who you are, most of the smartest people work for someone else”.

So come on, senior leaders in Ireland, in government and in business. Show visible leadership that proves you are open for business and innovation. Improve your online presence and join the rest of us in the conversation. You never know, we might even be able to help. And if you don’t want to hire me, you’ll find loads of others just as good and just as willing to start working on the thorny problems of Leading in Disruptive Environments. After all, remember we are only a click away.

Emer Coleman

Emer Coleman is founder of DISRPTN. She was one of our 100 Top Women in STEM – Part 1, published in March.