An ancient virus has come back to life after lying dormant for at least 30,000 years, scientists...
We join spokes together in a wheel, but it is the emptiness of the center hole that makes the wagon move.
We shape clay into a pot, but it is the emptiness inside that holds whatever we want.
- Stowe Boyd
Investment in headcount and infrastructure have steadily grown, as companies reach “intermediate” stages of social business. Several are turning their sights from “social media” as an extension of marketing and communications, and seek to push a “social business” agenda throughout the organization. Top findings include:
- Most organizations are “intermediate,” with only 17% self-described as “strategic” in the execution of their social strategies.
- 78% of companies have a dedicated social media team, at the division, corporate or both levels
- Companies are committing more headcount to social media across all sizes of organizations. The biggest jump is for companies with more than 100,000 employees, which now report an average of 49 full-time employees supporting social media, compared to 20 in 2010.
- 85% of companies have an organizational social media policy, yet only 18% of companies report that their employees’ knowledge of social media usage and the organizational policy is either good or very good.
(via Charlene Li, The State of Social Business in 2013 | LinkedIn)
A recent resurgence of the ‘is Social Business dead?’ meme bubbled over this week in a post by Chris Heuer, and smelling the bacon grease I ran toward the fire, offered up an analysis, and announced a new project, at the same time:
Social business isn’t dead, but it has become tired. It’s not longer even an edgy and emotive alternative to business-as-usual, and partly because of the half he [Heuer] gets wrong or never examines: today’s tools for social business. The world of business has moved ahead to accepting the class of contemporary technologies that embody the slightly better 2013-style of collaborative business, dominated by work management tools from Microsoft, Salesforce, IBM, Jive, and other established enterprise software vendors. To the extent that those tools and the practices that surround them define the social business, then they have become commonplace, not a profound redefinition of working together in new ways.• What is needed, though, is not a retreat to arguing about the term social business, but a movement forward, a movement embodied as a community of people committed to advancing new principles of learning, organization, leadership, and management, pushing forward into a new future of work. •
In writings more recent that the January piece Heuer pointed to, I have made a strong case for the following trends, supported by a wide range of research here at GigaOM and other firms:
• To the extent that social business was a concept that a community of practitioners hoped would represent or spark a radical break with the past, it has fallen short. •
- C-level executives hope to gain another round of productivity from new technologies and practices that are grouped under the loose rubric of ‘social’.
- They believe that the mechanisms used in the past — demanding more work from employees, and routinization of work practices — cannot be used again, at least not to get any serious gains.
- The answer — if that is a question — is for organizations to adopt a new form factor for business, one that undoes the rules and loosens the ties that make businesses slow to learn, innovate, and respond.
- One of the toolsets to apply in this quest for the fast-and-loose business are ideas about working socially and tools to support that. However, the greatest advances are likely to be more closely linked to fundamentals of organizational culture, and the relationship of the individual to work and the organization, rather than a social business breakthrough, per se.
Perhaps, then, I could restate Heuer’s apocalyptic statement into something more practical and pragmatic: social business isn’t dead, but it isn’t enough, either. And simply getting the meaning of the term straightened out — if such a thing is possible, at this point — won’t add much, either. At the best, there are a set of ideas derived from the social revolution on the web — like pull versus push communication, and the benefits of defaulting to open, not closed, communication — that can be productively applied to make working socially easier and faster.
What is needed, though, is not a retreat to arguing about the term social business, but a movement forward, a movement embodied as a community of people committed to advancing new principles of learning, organization, leadership, and management, pushing forward into a new future of work.
To the extent that social business was a concept that a community of practitioners hoped would represent or spark a radical break with the past, it has fallen short. You can interpret that as a failure of the concept, or a sign of endurance of the mainstream notion of business, or perhaps even as a failed power grab by those most loudly advocating for ‘social business’-led change. But this does not mean that work isn’t changing, or that we do not need even more change — in our organizations and ourselves — in the months and years ahead. We do. It is essential to find new balance in a new normal, where the ground beneath our metaphorical feet is never steady and always shifting.
I am committed to help give such a movement a bit more definition, and in the following weeks I will be laying out some ideas about a loose community of people committed to the investigation of the future of work. I am launching an effort to do that called Chautauqua, named after the adult education movement of late 19th and early 20th century America. I hope to work with local groups across the country and internationally to explore a topic central to the future of work each month, in a model stolen (honestly) from the Pecha Kucha and Creative Mornings movements.
W. Daniel Hillis (via inthenoosphere)
Hence, Emergent Business, not Social Business.
Stowe Boyd, cited by Justin Kirby in Rethinking the Connected Marketing Future - Part 3
The social revolution in business won’t be like today’s vendors are telling us. They mostly are selling a rewarmed collaboration tool framework (‘groupware’ of the ’90s) with an activity stream glued on. The emergent business will be based on cooperative tools and norms underlying postnormal cowork, not collaborative ones.
from the report’s Executive Summary
“Socialized business process” — the idea of adding social tools to traditional business processes — is unlikely to work in the long term. The enterprise is now transitioning to social network–based communication as introduced by social tools, and there is a fundamental conflict in communication models with business-process-centric business. The attempt to make the socialized business process work may be part of the adoption problem reported in the social-business industry.
The shift to social network’s pull communication, where individuals more or less subscribe to information sources, will run counter to business process push communication and eventually invalidate it. Push-and-pull communication styles won’t jibe, and pull lines up with the transition to social network–based communication. Most notably, this will undermine business processes and the collective-collaborative organization that evolved in parallel with business processes. The shift won’t take place in the way that email led to organizational flattening. Rather, it will invalidate the rules and roles of business processes and turn the process logic into just another kind of information passed along through the social network.
It may be obvious, but companies that are more oriented toward a connective-cooperative style of work will get more benefits from social networks than those that are less so. Stated more strongly, those wishing to get the boost that many believe is inherent in this lean, self-innovating, fast-and-loose model of work will have to actively move away from the cultural principles of slow-and-tight, twentieth-century business.
In order to better explore these rapidly changing dynamics, this report presents a psychodynamic cultural model for business called the 3C model. The name is based on three sorts of business culture:
- Competitive: wheel-and-spoke organization, decision making by edict, feudal or clan culture
- Collaborative: pyramid-and-processes organization, decision making by elite consensus, slow-and-tight culture
- Cooperative: network-and-connections organization, laissez faire decision making, fast-and-loose culture
We also explore various archetypes of individuals’ psychosocial matches with the various flavors of companies. The freelancer and follower archetypes, for example, do well in cooperative settings, but they are poorly matched with entrepreneurial organizations (which may explain Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer’s recent edict excluding remote work.)
High-performing companies of the near future will be operating based on looser ties among individuals in and across businesses. Many more of them will be supported by next-generation cooperative tools. Individuals in these companies will have more autonomy, and there will be more opportunity seeking when compared to the largely slow-and-tight, risk-averse companies that are dominant today. The value of consensus is falling in a rapidly changing, unstable world where there is a higher premium for business innovation and more uncertainty than ever before. And this leads to a devaluation of business processes, in particular those business processes intended to direct human agency and to act as a surrogate for management directing employees’ every move.
You can sign up for a seven day free trial of the GigaOM Research service, and read the entire report.
Transparent Business Coffee Shop #newtrend?! #hunt;darton cafe on Lower Clapton road
I like this. There’s lots of talk about “transparency” vis-a-vis the “social business”, which is mostly just jargon but here it is in action.
I also think it’s likely to be good business sense - it brings the customer into the workings of the business and you can see how buying your coffee helps them. There’s also a motive to return, to see how they’re doing next week. (Well, if you’re a data wonk like me!) The British love an underdog, so while takings are pretty tiddly like this, I think it’ll make people feel more involved in the business.
Sorry, did I say ‘business’? I meant ‘experience’. Not just a cafe, also an “interactive art installation”. Oh Hackney…
All encompassing hosts Hunt & Darton expose the inner workings of their business by presenting everything as art – from the public display of their bank balance to the lovingly handpicked charity shop crockery.
Well, know thy customer…
Still, I do wish twee and ironic gourmet coffee wasn’t a Thing.
Interesting. London coffee shop presents a breakdown of all their outgoings, profit margins etc. Transparency? Apparently it’s art.
Open books is a bit scary, but it’s trust-building at the ground level.
I met Will McInnes online, and not too long afterward he invited me to speak at the Meaning 2012 conference in Brighton, south of London, where his consultancy, NixonMcInnes, is based. The conference was truly inspiring, and it gave me a chance to get to know Will, and now, to get some of our conversation on paper.
About Will McInnes
Will is the managing director of NixonMcInnes, a consultancy that has been identified by WorldBlu as one of the world’s Most Democratic Workplaces, and Will consults with major brands across Europe including Barclays, Cisco, First Group, Foreign & Commonwealth Office, Telefonica O2, and WWF. Will’s book, Culture Shock, was published last year, and touches on making business more democratic.
Stowe Boyd: NixonMcInnes is known as one of the world’s most radically democratic companies. What does radically democratic mean? Does that include the ideas of radical transparency and openness within the company? I would like you to expand on that idea because I bet that only a few people know about your firm or what the democratic workplace is.
Wil McInnes: We were inspired by a book called Maverick written by Ricardo Semler, a Brazilian entrepreneur. What’s so inspiring about his story is he inherited his father’s company, and he tried to run it the traditional top-down format. That failed, and he had a nervous breakdown. He wasn’t happy and the company wasn’t thriving. So he decided to do things radically different: to run the company democratically. It’s a really inspiring book, I recommend anyone to read it. His experience is what inspired Tom Nixon — my co-founder — and I to start NixonMcInnes.
Since then I’ve learned a lot about democracy at work. And, in parallel with the social web, we believe that business is going to become more participative and more democratic. If you take the net of all the big themes in business — whether its millennials entering the workforce, or the real time feedback we get from social software and collaboration tools, or competition and the war for talent — all of these things are melding together.
We believe that the most effective business organisms of the 21st century will have at their core different approaches to decision making: decision making that is more like what happens in wikipedia than it how archaic institutions work, where the message has to go all the way to the top and come back down all the way down to the bottom before a decision can be made.
SB: So you organized NixonMcInnes around those ideas from the outset?
WM: That’s right.
SB: How does that feel on a day-to-day basis? If I’m working in your business what does that mean for me as the new hire? What’s work life like?"I think life in an democratic organization is probably a little bit more serious: the effect of taking responsibility for more."
WM: That’s a good question. I think life in an democratic organization is probably a little bit more serious: the effect of taking responsibility for more. You can’t sit in the corner and bitch about someone else’s problem, and the fact that so-and-so isn’t doing their job. One of the flip sides of working more democratically we all have to take responsibility for what’s going on. Everyone knows what the finances are, everyone else knows what everyone earns. And that’s kind of interesting for people from an older style of organization.
SB: It might feel at first like walking around with your pants off. Oh, wait, you’re not supposed to know that, this is secret stuff.
How does that change peoples perception of each other, when he knows what you’re making and you know what he’s making?
WM: It creates a meritocracy. Questions are asked. And accountability is increased for people who are paid more. Take me for example, as the managing director of our consultancy, I am one of the highest paid and I have to live up to that. I have to deliver value. In a consultancy, people are the product. I have to demonstrate my value, otherwise the guys here in the team will leave. It’s a really powerful lever.
The other thing it really changes is that you can’t cheat your loyal employee. In other companies, there are people — the spine of the organization — that are taken for granted. To bring in the new talent you can pay the big dollars for them, and less to existing people. With ‘open book’ accounting you can’t do that. It creates a different, I suppose more ethical, approach to hiring and firing.
SB: This opens up the next thing I want to chat with you about: your leadership role. What’s the role of leadership in a world that’s becoming more social, and more democratic?
WM: I think leadership is about creating context. It’s about the sum of the parts and about helping groups achieve more than they can as individuals. I think the idea of leadership is going through some really large changes. Leaders have to deal with more forces around transparency, and transparency will bring a requirements to be more authentic. And to be more congruent humans we can relate to.
SB: Less of an authority figure that disposes and more of someone who proposes, and interacts, and gets in the discussion."I guess a democratic leader is more like a curator or gardener. It’s more like being a conduit. And it’s a shift from masculine to feminine in terms of traditional notions of styles. It’s about dialogue, collaboration, listening, and empathy."
WM: I guess a democratic leader is more like a curator or gardener. It’s more like being a conduit. And it’s a shift from masculine to feminine in terms of traditional notions of styles. It’s about dialogue, collaboration, listening, and empathy.
And the tools of leadership are changing. When I was researching Culture Shock I came across some really interesting observations. John Chambers, the CEO of Cisco, said that years ago he would say ‘alright, we’re gonna turn left’ and 60,000 people would turn left. Whereas now, he has to use real time collaborative tools to pass on snippets of informations to help people make contextual decisions wherever they are. It’s much more of an networked environment and i think thats an extremely interesting change.
SB: I think that’s a global issue. It’s not just consultancies or tech companies. I think its something that’s happening everywhere, because the forces that are causing companies to become more social, more open, more democratic, they are forces that impact all businesses. I think it has become more of an environmental force: it’s like air pressure.
I wanted to ask one last question. the idea — the thesis — behind this series is that we are in a time where we have to think more scientifically about what’s going on in business. Specifically, about how people work together and how they influence each other. And the sum of what you can get from people is greater than just adding it all up. In recent years, our understanding of cognitive psychology, the mathematics of social networks, and findings from other disciplines are allowing us to conceive of what’s going on in the business from a more scientific less and ideological basis. How do you think that new science of human beings — the physics of people, if you will — how is that going to change the conduct of business?
WM: I absolutely believe it’s going to change the conduct of business. It already is.
The areas I’m particularly interested in are the science of motivation, the science of happiness, and how happiness interacts with motivation, purpose and work. If you take the science of happiness and motivation, and then overlay that on an understanding of social networks, I think the results are extremely disruptive. And I think the wiring of the traditional organization is not ready for that frame of mind. Look at Yahoo’s announcement last week: the abolition of remote working. This is not a scientific decision, this is some kind of bullshit decision which has roots in the past.
For me the real issue is not so much the science, it’s the take up of the science, or the lag of things. That’s been occupying me recently, I’ve been thinking about lag as it pertains to how long between someone coming up with a great idea and then that idea becoming widely spread in society.
SB: Or an idea in a business: How long before you are generating revenue from it or benefitting your customers by being able to implement it?
WM: In our consultancy, we work with really large organizations and you see that the lag in big organizations is much greater than smaller, nimbler start ups. The question I have is this: if we are going to change business for the better, to suit the 21st century, how do we overcome the normal lag that happens? How do we get this new social science in business operating and performing at scale.
For me the outliers are Valve software, and the Pirate Party. These are organizations that are starting to make a sense of a bolder future and are truly radical in how they are designed and operated.
My biggest takeaway from Will’s experience in a wide-open democratic workplace is the increase in individual responsibility and the changing role of leadership. And Will’s optimism about the coupling of new science in human motivation, happiness, and social networks gives me additional hope and inspiration.
And his observations show something critical: we have plenty of conclusive research in those areas, and every week we see more. But those insights have not been translated into the thinking of business leaders, in general. A great deal is known now about cognition, or the science of motivation, or the real nature of how influence works, but those ideas have not found their way into business, and businesses are still operating around outmoded ideological premises.
I think in that sense Will’s notion of lag is a proxy for that: the lag slowing this body of knowledge from trickling through into business. And when it does we will have a radically transformed context for business, and businesses will operate and appear very differently. So more that technology, it’s new ideas that will transform business. More than tools, it’s courage that we need, to actively challenge the status quo, and to open our minds to new possibilities.
This post was written as part of the IBM for Midsize Business program, which provides midsize businesses with the tools, expertise and solutions they need to become engines of a smarter planet. I’ve been compensated to contribute to this program, but the opinions expressed in this post are my own and don’t necessarily represent IBM’s positions, strategies or opinions.
Tomfoolery blog, Mobile eats the Enterprise
Marc Andreessen wrote this great article about why software will eat the world. A similar seismic shift is happening because of the sensor-rich computers we carry around in our pockets. In the consumer space, the shift is obvious — mobile devices beat desktop & notebook PC shipments, time spent in mobile apps beats that spent on the internet(daily!), and we’re awfully close to catching up to TV. Mobile usage will be even more disruptive in the enterprise space because it’s accompanied by three tsunamis of changing work behavior:
- We have broken through cube walls: As people increasingly work remotely from each other, it will be imperative to collaborate from wherever we are.
- Power belongs to the People: Mobile workers are not only choosing their own devices, they are choosing their own apps. And these apps better be good, because they know how powerful an app can be, how amazing it can look, and how much it can offer.
- Career employees are gone forever: The parallel forces of hyperspecialization and jobfluidity are requiring teams to be more flexible than ever before.
Though we are already able to see early benefits from mobile use at work, this is just the beginning. Location-aware, context-aware, human-aware computing is here, and as an industry, we are just beginning to understand the possibilities.
At Tomfoolery, when we set out re-imagine how teams communicate and work together, starting with a mobile-focused approach seemed not only smart but it felt like the only way to do it.
It may be a bit precipitous to judge a company’s product strategy by blog post, but I will go out on a limb and say that Tomfollery is going to release awesome software (even if they do quote Marc Andreessen). After all, a company whose motto is this
We believe all work is personal. Tomorrow can’t come soon enough.
is probably hacking interesting software.
Bruce Lewin took a look at the goals of the Socialogy project, and has a lot to say (a whole lot, so brace yourself if you click through). The Bottom line? He thinks that a missing method is necessary to scale business around social:
Firstly, finding a scientifically-grounded understanding of people that does fulfil all five criteria and is focussed around people is easier said than done. Clearly, there are no shortage of HR tools, methodologies and psychometrics as outlined above, although it doesn’t look like any of the ‘traditional’ tools hit the mark. Likewise, the growth in social business over the past 5 years has brought this into much sharper focus. This is a good thing but it also exposes the current shortcomings in this area.
Secondly, should any innovation or understanding emerge that does fulfil the five criteria, then the potential to change business in a hugely profound way becomes a reality.
Thirdly, one possible candidate for fulfilling these criteria and realising the transformative potential of socialogy is 4G. Although there are a variety of questions still to be answered by 4G, the 4G approach is one that is worth further consideration.
I agree that a more coherent understanding of the ‘physics of people’ is needed for businesses to take the great step forward implied by social business’ value proposition. That’s something I hope to mine from the explorations in Socialogy.