Wednesday, 15 February 2012

#SMWLdn Like Minds and Social Business


   It’s social media week this week, and I’m presenting at two events with Like Minds on social business today.

I’ve attended a few other events already and social business has already had a significant focus.  For example, yesterday I was at Edelman where Euan Semple was talking about enabling people and changing culture to be able to say (and tweet) what they think.

David Armano from Edelman was then speaking about the importance of the employee within a social business (building upon the results of their recent Trust Barometer, that whereas trust in CEOs has fallen, trust in technical experts, regular employees, and particularly ‘people like me’ has been maintained).  However, I agreed with whoever asked a question, suggesting that despite this mention, the agenda was very much focused on marketing and PR.

I’ve tried to re-tilt the balance at the event today.

I was second, after JP Rangaswami from Salesforce who suggested that companies are sometimes antisocial because they have a level of fear in being open with their customers.  There’s also a deepening connection between employees and customers.  Eg Cluetrain made a case that there were different external and internal conversations.  Nowadays, these are both and across.  People are used to connecting with each other and having conversations with each other inside and outside of their firms.  This is going to mean a change in the nature of the firm.  Absolutely – though I still think organisations can focus social first - and I think the same point applies to internal antisocialness too.

In my session, I talked about five things:

  • How HR activities are changing (social recruiting, social learning etc – but other areas too eg social performance management using Rypple / Success Force from Salesforce).  This provides benefits for efficiency, effectiveness and transformation but needs a high level of trust.
  • Transformational benefits depend on focusing on outcomes rather than activities.  These can include human capital, eg engagement, but social (internal) and relationship (external) capital too.  I talked about the Visa case study you’ll find here as an example of a social / 2.0 organisation which doesn’t use social media at all (though a guy from Detica in the audience suggests that they are now moving this way).
  • Out of these forms of capital, it’s social capital which is most important.  Eg see Hamel’s / Birkinshaw’s stuff on management / organisation (internal) vs leadership / business (external).
  • Because of this, each organisation’s journey in social business will be different – as we discussed in the Enterprise 2.0 Summit last week, there are no best practices.  An organisation focusing on social innovation will need to take different actions to one focusing on social execution, including in their use of social media tools.
  • However, the other enablers need to be tailored to the relevant outcomes as well.  These can include social leadership; social approaches eg open space / unconferencing; social facilitation / community management; social HR practices – and also social values.  I talked about the need for ‘love’ (in Euan’s book), or a high level of mutual regard, again here.


Later sessions reinforced some of the same points, eg:

  • Euan talked about the way the language of business has been desanitised and depersonalised and that we need to talk more normally, ie be more human.
  • Joanne Jacobs talked about community, suggesting the people can flock together but won’t want to be part of a borg collective.  They’re still a group of individuals, just working together.
  • Neville Hobson also talked about how social business is a bigger agenda than social media, though mainly from an external communication perspective, and demands trust.
  • Delphine Remy-Boutang talked about IBM’s social business journey, which has been about leadership, technology and process (but people are the most important) and started internally with things like Beehive (IBM’s internal Facebook) before they allowed it to take place externally too.  Last year, new developments included:
    • Social Business @ IBM tool providing guidance on using social media and including Foursquare type badges
    • The formation of their Social Business Management Council
    • A Social Business Jam.
  • Lee Provoost also emphasises the need for social to solve business problems (or boost opportunities?).


Of course there were a few disagreements too, which will hopefully become clearer in this afternoon’s panel (I think people learn best by considering disagreements between people rather than listening to everyone violently but maybe superficially agreeing).

For example I suspect I see a need for greater teaming than Joanne. Love may be the wrong word but for me, a social business has to have a strong sense of social identity.  And whereas Lee emphasised the need to understand individual people’s selfish behaviour which may not fit into a company’s plan, I’d suggest what’s even more important is encouraging selflessness.  I’m not a believer in a unitary agenda between organisation and employees, but I do believe that social depends largely on a strong consensus about what’s really important, and a shared commitment to making this work.


Also see Live Minds’ live blog.



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