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Digital Britain: Free-spirits in Free-forming Networks

January 11, 2012 - 0 Comments

I arrived at a recent networking event in London, known as “Digital Sizzle,” which was buzzing with activity.  I looked around and wondered how this group came to fruition.  Seriously, how do you get 300+ people — most who do not know each other — into a room together on a promise of free beer and BBQ?

It’s an interesting phenomenon.  I’ve been to several local network events in the past few months and I’m intrigued with the evolving Tech scene in London; meeting the recruitment agents, CEOs and Angel Investors in the process.

The common connecting thread for each event – I heard about them via Twitter.  Like a new-age newswire for the online masses, it’s a constant stream of micro-blogging posts that connects its users in real-time.

Flash Networking in Action

After chatting with @inthecompanyof and @bryce_keane I understood that between them — @Digital_Sizzle and @SiliconDrinkabt — they have the reach of over 1,500 engaged people.  Is it really that simple, one or two tweets and you can mobilize a local “community of interest” for an upcoming event?

Silicon Drinakabout was founded by Mind Candy and is now run in partnership with the Digital Sizzle Team.  It started like so many other Flash mob ideas; poll your friends and take a vote, select a venue, then publicise the event online to your followers via Twitter, Facebook and in-person via (old-school) word of mouth.

This approach is the “free-form people networking” model for creative and tech talent meet-ups in London, where you can introduce yourself to eager new contacts, find jobs and potential business partners.

Digital Sizzle is now an established quarterly event and they’re busy thinking about other ways to engage their target “Tech City Creative” stakeholders.  The organizing team are considering sponsorship opportunities — where they set-up the venue, attract the people and run the event.  This could prove extremely desirable to local entrepreneurs who plan to launch their own new product or service and need an audience to attend.

As the Twitter following increases, these events will gain more kudos in the community and will start to attract further coverage by the UK national media; it has already been covered in The Guardian.  Perhaps the bigger companies will also participate and some venture capitalists; all are vital ingredients to a flourishing Tech cluster.

Recruitment of the New Generation

Today’s up-and-coming entrepreneur and creative talent are an electric mix of individuals – but they’re also collectively passionate, driven and very enthusiastic.  You typically won’t find them in large companies.  They’re often multifaceted — and don’t easily fit into narrowly defined corporate roles. Plus, they’re unconventional thinkers, so corporate managers likely won’t know how to relate to them.

Apparently, they’re also very much in demand. I just read an article about the changes in Silicon Valley recruitment practices.  The forward-thinking companies are moving away from the legacy Ivy League computer science graduates and moving towards the type of creative, passionate and free-spirited individuals I’m seeing in these London Tech meet-up events.  With Digital Sizzle’s network of followers, they have the attention of many people in the Tech Scene which has enabled them to launch the Digital Sizzle Job board.

If the big mega-firms want to attract and recruit the best of the rest, then they must adapt — so they can connect and engage with this new generation of young people. Clearly, it’s likely going to become more challenging to appeal to the digital natives coming into the workforce.

Some firms really get it, other simply don’t.  I was talking with a guy that works at a London bank.  He told me that his employer chooses not to engage in social media activities; they’ve essentially insulated themselves from this communications medium as they do not understand it — good luck with that strategy.

Where to Next?

As this market transition develops, with the baby-boomer generation heading into retirement and the new generation entering the marketplace, perhaps now is the time to prepare for the inevitable.  The mainstream corporate culture of the near future could be somewhat similar to today’s benchmark.  That being said, I wouldn’t count on the corporate culture changing that quickly.

Instead, I’d suggest that there’s no time like the present to embrace the notion that free-spirits are going to congregate in free-forming networks in close proximity to you, very soon — resistance is futile.

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