Teutonic Shift

While the business communication industry in Europe has most heavily centered around London for the last twenty years, their is a seemingly seismic surge of activity underway well to the east, as evidenced by last week’s Quadriga University Internal Communication conference in Berlin.

Now, an internal communication conference in and of itself would not be intrinsically newsworthy.  Commercial and association conferences have long been held all over Europe. But, aside from the academic imprimature, the Quadriga conference showed an emerging division between a UK-dominated field that still focuses on executive communication and “employee engagement” and a Continental alternative that takes an interest in social communication, feedback aggregation, and intranet self-organisation.

It’s monarchic versus democratic; top-down versus lateral; social media vs. social communication.   Pioneering ideologies wrapped in practical methodologies.

Does the Berlin conference represent a seismic change in the industry’s intellectual direction?  It’s a bit early to tell, but perhaps one can call it a Teutonic shift.  And, having been priviliged to present on Social Communication, one I’m all too happy to applaud.

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  1. In short: No, it doesn’t. Any more than the Stockholm accords will, or can, or should.

    It’s still an immature industry. No single centre of gravity has the mass to make such shifts because the discipline/functional bases from which they approach “communication” in its many guises. The technology brigade (e.g. Razorfish, Netintelligenz etc. etc.) are all talking about it. The Human Capitalists (TowersWatson, Penna,etc.) are all talking about it. The PR brigade (Stockholm accords, CIPR, etc.) are all talking about it. The brand and marketing brigade are all talking about it. etc etc etc etc etc etc etc etc etc.

    This is mirrored inside organisations, across functional silos.

    So I suspect any tectonic or seismic activity will only come by genuinely, actively and effectively creating links between major fault lines to create this mythical super-quake.

    I suspect we may be able to make a start…

    • A 1-point is often a foreshock of a 2-point. At least that’s what I know about the seismic world.

      What is teutonically–and tectonically–interesting is that in Berlin and Germany we are not only seeing some great new thinking and a refreshing emphasis on the applicability of authentic democratic principles in tough business settings, but also the formation of a parallel infrastructure to the London-San Francisco axis.

      Berlin now is home to a key association (EACD), a publishing and conference house, a dedicated business communications university, numerous main clients and vendors, and the situation on the ground in Berlin reflects an increasingly robust German business communication landscape–increasingly inventive and confident in competing–and cooperating–in English with what the UK and US have to offer.

      Most importantly, the German players are relatively unscathed by the “employee engagement” movement, which while often swathed in noble intentions, often denied the fundamental employee autonomy driving such “engagement” in the first place.

      “With your words you create your world.” Sure, a Berlin-London polarity in the business comms world would be fun and fascinating. But the needed conditions for it are beginning to emerge. What a difference a year or two will make.

      • Agreed it’s going to be a great and fascinating year or two ahead.

        But I don’t think associations have the gravitas or impact you give them credit for. Few people outside CC directors, and many of the FT2000 CC Directors, don’t know what the EACD is. That’s not an attack, any more than my doing a double take when Mark Schumann says he is at Face 2010 – an employee engagement conference.

        In essence we’re heading in the wrong direction. Maybe we need fewer associations, not more. Some M&A activity amongst CIPR and IoIC and IABC and PRSA etc. Never gonna happen though.

        IABC has 15000 members yet due to this fragmentation their influence too is waning.

        Suggestions or ideas???

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