New Communication Tools and the Right People

In preparation for being in DC next week, I’ve been reading some history. Namely, I’ve been reading Mr. Lincoln’s T-Mails: How Abraham Lincoln used the Telegraph to Win the Civil War.

I found the premise interesting, in that the telegraph really changed the dynamics between the commander in chief, and his generals. Rather than having to send off his army to fight and then wait days, or weeks, for results, Lincoln was able to harness the power of this new technology to be directly involved in the command of the army, and insert his vision into the strategy.

I found many similarities between what Lincoln was able to do because of the speed of the telegraph to what we’re seeing across all levels of society today with the internet and social media tools. It’s a simple thing, in 2008, to keep up to date, and involved in whatever area you want to be involved, whether it be your business, the latest court decisions, or the social aspect with your friends no matter your physical location.

The one real interesting thing about the history though, is that the changes, and the technology didn’t really bring the results Lincoln was looking for until he got the right people on the other end of the telegraph line. All the technology and direct communication didn’t change who George McClellan was, or Burnside was, or Meade was. Lincoln communicated what he wanted done and the vision he had for strategy, but he didn’t have the right people in place to carry out that vision.

In 2008 it’s common for us to look at all these great social media tools as a way to communicate our visions, and build relationships. They are that, but we can learn from history as well. The technology won’t change who people are, and if they aren’t the right people then your vision won’t get carried out.

Even in 2008, it’s still about people.

Tags: CivilWar, Telegraph, History, SocialMedia

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  1. It’s definitely the people. Even in the Portland area, where twitter has gone wild and is used for all sorts of things, the real power is that Twitter is used as a way to facilitate and supplement many real life meetings/gatherings/events. Folks don’t have a real identity and a Twitter identity. It’s just one identity, and the Twitter network becomes the real life network.

  2. Thanks Steven, I will have to see if I can find a copy of that.

    Aaron, that’s a good example of how the tools bring people together, and that’s the important part. On the other hand, when I was reading that part of the book my thoughts were drawn to the flip side of that equation, the Utopian vision many people have about social media and instant communications bringing people together and helping them understand each other. I think it’s fairly obvious that doesn’t happen often. The technology has only given us more ways to voice our differences in the same rude, obnoxious ways we always have. If anything, tech has allowed us to behave worse, and to more easily give in to our lesser instincts. Communication tools can’t change them.

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