Change, Idealism & Network Resiliency A Year After Arab Spring Reply

Organizers of Egyptian Revolution Admit to Failure.  How could a headline like that not capture your attention?

“They toppled a pharaoh, but now the small circle of liberals, leftists, and islamists who orchestrated egypt’s revolution say they realize they failed to uproot the networks of power that Hosni Mubarak nurtured for nearly three decades.”

According to the International Herald Tribune the mistakes were many.
  • Assuming that the body would fall if you cut off the head.
  • In the early days, the young leaders were afraid of being perceived as grabbing power
  • Some were distracted by the media attention
  • Yet others deferred to opposition party elders after creating the spark of change
  • Protest leaders were well-manipulated leaders who let them sit and wait while great strides were taken to retain power
The bottom line is that pre-existing networks in the military and political parties appear to have been quite resilient during Hosni Mubarak’s fall and have endured so well that they now appear poised to regain power during this election period.

Regardless of the suite of explanations we apply, it would appear that the skill set which made these protest leaders suitable for leading a revolution left them ill-prepared for handling the political realities of other power networks still in existence.  Such networks, it would appear, do not simply drop by the roadside as a long-standing leader like Mubarak falls from grace.  

Cut off the head, and the various body parts prove their resilience.

Several ideas come to mind.
  • Like many business start-ups, the leaders who launch the business are often do not possess the ideal skill set to grow the business.
  • Networks really are superorganisms which can withstand the loss of a node–even a major node such as the leadership of Hosni Mubarak.
  • Social networks may bring transparency to a protest by revealing the number of people supporting your cause, but good old-fashioned face-to-face networks will usually not rise or fall as rapidly as their digital counterparts.  
This all makes me wonder if Seth Godin is calling it right.  Angry customers (and others) are in effect flash mobs that will often bring little or only temporary change to most existing organizational structures (I paraphrase from my memory and apologize for my lack of eloquence). If we want to bring more enduring change, then we must employ–but not rely excessively on–digital network and idealism which, ultimately, may display less resiliency than face-to-face counterparts.

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