Recently, some of the thought-leaders had a bit of fresh discussion about the evolving direction of social collaboration, and the future of work itself. This discussion looked beyond the motivations of individuals, and at what is leading to this change in social business (enterprise social networks, E2.0, etc.) One debate was on the driving force or source of authority that ‘allows’ social collaboration to occur in the organization. The other is that we don’t have a consistent understanding of what social business is now, presumably at this point of its evolution. Both were looking at ways to help nudge an envisioned future of work.
[Disclosure: Most of the folks here are friends of mine as well as peer thought leaders in Social Business. Chris Heuer is also my business partner.]
But the bigger speculation was a look at the current degree of maturity of social business, now nearing its first decade, kicked off by Frank Eliason (SVP Social Media, Citibank), followed by a response from Emanuele Quintarelli (Digital Transformation Lead, Ernst & Young) on the source driving the change.
Great piece Rawn! I wonder who will be next to make a move. I think there are a lot of aspects. We are now hitting a stage where some say the ideas are maturing, but the reality is most companies are not even close to achieving what is possible. But as you know it does not come down to the tools but instead the underlying culture. I often talk about social service but the reality is companies must fix the overall Customer experience. For internal collaboration it is not about implementing the next version of whatever software, it is truly having a collaborative work environment. I expect these changes will happen over the next few years and I look forward to help lead that, but the companies doing it must be ready for it. It will be fun for us who have recognized this for a long time.
Interesting point Frank. To me the central question is where will the change come from? From inside the organization, from the market pressure, from consultancies and which kind of consulting companies. I believe none of the actors involved are actually ready to make the leap. I’m afraid lots of patience and hard work will be required..
Emanuele we are at the stage where patience and hard work are key. I think many companies were provided poor advice over the past few years and are going frustrated by the poor results. The challenge is they have not always listened to those who truly know but instead focused on the ease they were sold. I do think consultants (the right ones) will be important but I also think the discussion must happen at the right levels. It is not a CMO conversation. It is the CEO but also the lowest level employees too. Then it must converge onto the remaining parts of the org. Unfortunately for some companies this will take too long and others will pass them by
I am seeing the same as many commenters on this thread: I think everyone “gets it” conceptually, but actually making a meaningful change is quite different. Too much attention has been paid to technology and not enough to underlying change management. You can’t just tell people to go collaborate — shocking, I know! 🙂 I also think that people aren’t really making a connection between “external social” and “internal social” and how it’s part of the same kind of organization they need to become. And also.. social business or whatever you want to call it is still a silo, so definitely CEO level leadership is key as Frank Eliason mentioned — but it’s not enough. I think where most things get stuck actually is middle management. Social business efforts can fizzle there, no matter how visionary the CEO is. Also.. culture takes a long time to change, so when people don’t see results right away, they throw out the baby with the bathwater. Time to end this comment…
But as the definition implies, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. There is a whole lot to those parts, however. They comprise entire functions (marketing, customer service, product development, etc.) and aspects of business (customer relationships, employee engagement, strategy and growth, etc.) The scale of it is what makes this so compelling for thought leaders, but also so challenging to enterprise leaders. It is a just a whole lot to know and juggle in mind on par with the Total Perspective Vortex of Douglas Adams’ novels–to stare at it may let you comprehend the depth of it all, but also drive you mad from grasping the complexity.
What or Where is ‘Here’ in the timeline of maturity?
The discussion then switched to what I describe as ‘what is the story now’? Where is ‘here’ in the Total Perspective Vortex? Chris Heuer (CEO of Alynd) and Mr. Quintarelli exchanged views on the matter:
Chris, I’m sorry but I’m not buying it. The issue with Social Business or whatever we want to call it is not about names and monikers. The issue is with value and change: a value most senior executives simply don’t see and a required change that simply is not justified. You can call it however you want but the future of work is about a totally different kind of organization and a dramatically different kind of role for its constituents. Are we able to demonstrate the why? If yes, names are not that important. Otherwise, any name will be pretty useless. Names is about marketing. Change is about motivation to change. Change is about value.
Language is about connecting concepts and people. If you haven’t, please read the article. Too dismiss it as marketing gimmickry is to miss my point entirely. There are many challenges, most of which come from the inherent complexity of the subject and the complacency of executives with the status quo.
I’ve read the article of course and I’m specifically referring to http://www.briansolis.com/2013/10/social-business-is-dead-long-live-whats-next/…. If I’m understanding your point, you remark that “it’s just time for us to find a phrase that is more attractive to corporate leadership” and that “The problem is that the deeper meaning and richer context is being lost on executives who still think the word “social” indicates a frivolous time-wasting pursuit”. On the contrary my impression is that executives will start looking into Social Business only when they get the why, in their terms of course. Words can be confusing but it is not other words that will make it clearer to me. At least not enough to remove inertia from the C-suite. I agree that “Your assignment, should you choose to accept it, is not to get caught up in the words.” The next step to me is not another movement but showing the hard value that what we have been doing in the last few years, unfortunately, has not delivered. To me the future of the organization is especially about doing and changing organizations a step at a time.
Emanuele. You can’t have it both ways. You say we need to explain the why “in their terms” and then say “it is not other words that will make it clearer”. That’s a pretty simple contradiction in what you are stating. I don’t think we disagree much if at all on principle here, which is why your “words” are confusing me 🙂
Oh I just noticed the rest of the article — missed the interview between Rawn and Emanuele. My gut reaction: I have to say, I do not agree at all that business transformation is the territory of big consultants — but of course I can see why you’d say that because you work for a big consultancy. 🙂 I work with all kinds of consulting partners, and I definitely don’t agree. I think the points of industry specialization — as well as seeing trends across industries at a 10k view — are valid points. But I don’t think this expertise only exists in large consultancies. Also, small and medium companies need social transformation — it’s just the way they go about it may be different.
(1) The topic has matured and changed since inception a few years back. (I’m intentionally being vague on when it started precisely.)
(2) The gestalt of social business is vague and misunderstood. Some see the near-term possibilities and achievable gains, but ignore the full potential because that requires hard decisions and larger changes.
(3) There is a need for what changes can occur on a practical level that is pragmatic to the situation of each organization
(4) “Short-term” varies but on a business operations-view it is 1 year or less. On a business work evolution viewpoint, it is a few years
(5) I’d argue “long-term” means a decade or more, encompassing the possibility of the complete forward future of how you run your business.
(6) We need actionable practical change in the Business-operations-Short-term timespace, but driving towards the Work-evolution-Short-term as well.
(7) Making the practical change however still needs an understanding of the Long-term view both in concept, and in terms of the broad strategic/evolutionary goals for one’s specific organization.
As the header says, evolution is many, many steps that seem small and achievable in the short-term, but develops the organism (the organization) into a new thing. This above isn’t evolution in the classic sense but guided or managed. We don’t simply set in motion and let things happen, but nudge things along. It takes many, many small nudges.
The big debate we seem to have is what shape of actions and the reasons why we make these nudges…
[To be continued. I propose one approach of my own.]