There’s an old Japanese saying that goes something like, “If you don’t have any enemies, go make some.” I think it is a very useful thing. “Enemies” focus us.
Now, I know that some folks out there recoil at making any “enemies.” But, if so, that’s probably because they’re being overly literal. By “enemies,” I’m meaning something as large as “community forming via Sociology 101.” Sociology 101 tells us that groups form by differentiating themselves *against* something they identify as outside of the group. In essence, they pick an “other.” People in Silicon Valley clearly associate with those from their geographical area. As do partisan politicians. As do “social media experts.” You get the idea.
Is the “other” necessarily the “enemy?” No, of course not. But I’d argue that the step from other to enemy is a pretty small one. And, in the modern world of business, startups and everything, enemies really aren’t a bad thing. Enemies let us know who to beat, how to focus, where to spend time and money. Enemies give us something to play with; can provide a sense of fun; and provide one hell of a community-builder.
I remember reading once about the early ad campaigns that Oracle ran. They were *brutal* on the competition. I mean toxic, head-on, “oh my Lord I can’t believe they said that” confrontational. And you know what? They worked.
Need a more “modern” example? Salesforce.com’s “no more software” campaign. Beautiful. Or check out box.net’s recent campaign (really fun).
And so I’m asking, should “making enemies” be one of the primary things that enterprise 2.0 and social media engagement tools do? Maybe your “enterprise 2.0″ deployment would take-off if it began by building communities and tools around competition that you’re going to destroy. Maybe social media monitoring tools would be *more* useful if they listened for the chinks in my “enemy’s” armor (so that I could go after that weak point). Maybe we’d all be just a little better off if we stopped getting along so well, and started thinking in terms of absolutely obliterating the competition.
I’m using hyperbole to prove a point (of course), but I think it’s something worth considering. Are your products, services, strategies and deployments beginning with Sociology 101? If not, you may to. The Japanese directive might be just the right prescription: Go make some enemies.