Social Business is growing up.

Starting on a tangent…

One of the beauties of the written word, particularly in digital format, is that it cannot be “worn out” in the physical sense which makes me think that overuse is the digital equivalent where we become desensitised to the significance and numb to the meaning being conveyed.

At the current rate, words and phrases such as “change”, “paradigm”, “new world”, “connected economy” and “radically different” are being overused to the point of being worn out of meaning – and I know I play my part in that!

But how else do we talk about the significance and magnitude of some of the converging trends racing towards us as businesses, industries, nations and societies?

Back on topic…

Much of my between-the-ears pondering of late has been grappling with what I see as the significance of Social Business and how it relates to these trends. Trying to get beyond some of the “nice” idealistic notions and at the heart of why it needs to be understood as relevant to our leaders and core to their organisations’ ability to thrive tomorrow – whether they be in industry, education or government.

Steve Denning, in concluding his Forbes article Why Apple and GE Are Bringing Back Manufacturing, identifies a number of the changes that we are already beginning to see from some of today’s thriving organisations, and highlights themes I’d expect to hear in conversation with any Social Business strategist worthy of the title:

Success in this new world of manufacturing will require a radically different kind of management from the hierarchical bureaucracy focused on shareholder value that is now prevalent in large firms. It will require a different goal (delighting the customer), a different role for managers (enabling self-organizing teams), a different way of coordinating work (dynamic linking), different values (continuous improvement and radical transparency) and different communications (horizontal conversations). Merely shifting the locus of production is not enough. Companies need systemic change—a new management paradigm.

Cause or Effect?

Perhaps it is a question of maturity, further evidence that it’s just the first innings of social in the enterprise is over, and the reality the hype cycle waits for no-one? Emanuele Quintarelli shared some insight in a recent post:

The fascinating thing is that we moved to the Through of Disillusionment without ever fully experiencing the Peak of Inflated Expectations given that most executives have yet to understand the meaning of this social revolution while pundits are ringing the bell of a next new thing.

Which leads me to think of things in the context of Denning’s words. Executives don’t need to understand “social”, they need to recognise the change under way and the disruption ahead of us. We should objectively question the current state of play in the Social Business space – the vendors, initiatives and case studies we are familiar with – and whether they are truly cause, or rather effect?

We need to see Social Business efforts morph into systemic change programs of the scale Denning eludes to, that will ensure organisations can continue to thrive.

A new end game for Social Business

So whilst we may be rewriting the end game for Social Business, I don’t feel we’re moving the goalposts. To borrow a few more words from Emanuele:

We can call it Social Media Marketing, Social CRM, Enterprise 2.0 or Social Business. Nonetheless we’ll be still missing the point until the broader picture will come together by connecting social to the digital landscape and embedding digital into the real business realm.

I certainly agree, and thanks to the likes of Dion Hinchcliffe‘s Architecture Of A Social Business, and The Community Roundtable‘s Community Maturity Model, we have some great direction.

But what is ever so challenging to capture in a diagram are the levels of complexity, the strength of leadership and commitment needed, the variables and unknowns, the “human factor”.

What began as the enterprise adopting Web 2.0 approaches continues to take on new meaning and significance. It is now core to building and leading organisations fit for purpose.

Social Business is growing up.

Life’s Change Agent

This quote (emphasis mine) comes from Steve Jobs’ 2005 Stanford Commencement Address, and speaks to some core fundamentals of what for me is a big part of “Enterprise 2.0” or “social business”. It’s the hard part, the change.

No one wants to die, even people who want to go to Heaven don’t want to die to get there.

And yet, death is the destination we all share. No one has ever escaped it.

And that is as it should be. Because death is very likely the single best invention of life.

It’s life’s change agent; it clears out the old to make way for the new.


Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life.  Don’t be trapped by dogma, which is living with the results of other  people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out  your own inner voice, heart and intuition. They somehow already know  what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.

Uncertain, Yet Exciting Times

Friend and colleague @NigelBarron earlier today passed me this post from Don Tapscott of Macrowikinomics fame: Davos: New Realities and Managing New Global Risks – Don Tapscott, which contains this inspirational line:

the industrial age is finally coming to an end and to achieve economic development and social justice we need to rebuild civilization around a new set of norms and values.

This hit right home. We are living in uncertain, yet exciting times, much like our predecessors did, during what we now term the industrial revolution.

Whether we call it Enterprise 2.0, social collaboration, or social business is pretty irrelevant, but for those of us working in this space in the enterprise, I truly believe this is what we’re really about. This is what we’re doing with our companies. We are helping them recognise the end of one age, and helping them adapt and move into another.

I think it’s important we don’t lose sight of this bigger picture, the scale and importance of this, as we deal with the realities of the day to day.


PS: Don, I have a copy of Macrowikinomics which I am desperately trying to find the time to read, I’ll get there, please bear with me!

“New-Generation Workers” Want Technology Their Way

Today I caught a discussion on the findings of a survey carried out by Accenture.

Millennial generation students and employees (those aged 14 to 27) expect to use their own technology and mobile devices for work and are increasingly choosing their place of employment based on how accommodating companies are to their personal technology preferences

Yet more evidence demonstrating how our consumer technology choices are making their way into the workplace, meaning that the companies that best accommodate these demands will gain a competitive advantage through attracting, and most importantly, retaining, the best young talent.

Observing this, it appears we are increasingly demanding in our requirements for consumer technology, increasingly fickle with our choices and loyalties, and increasingly adept at managing the change new technology presents us.

Yet this often goes against our corporate mandated use of technology, where we are stuck in our old ways, show blind loyalty to old technology, and told that change is painful and risky! (I’d love you to chip in with candidates for each category! ;-))

So why is this still the case?

Will the “Millennial generation” win over their elders?