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2011 – The Year of The Social Enterprise?

4 01 2011

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A New Year brings with it many opportunities – and we generally take advantage of the new start every year gives us to make numerous promises and resolutions for change in our life.

For me, Jan 1st 2011 saw me make promises to write more often, get fitter, achieve great things for my clients, and generally embrace what is sure to be a year of great changes for me.

However, another opportunity afforded by the New Year is the ability to look like a right royal fool, or alternatively a prescient visionary genius, by looking to the year ahead to predict what it will bring.

My track record at these predictions is not necessarily to be envied – although I don’t seem to usually be “completely wrong”, my timing seems to be somewhat off.

Had the predictions of my youth come true, we’d all be living in a Star-Trek like world of spaceships, teleportation, and holographic entertainment systems in every home. Heck, even more recent predictions of a global ubiquitous Internet connection seem to be off by several years at least.

Nevertheless, it’s fun to look to the future, and I’d like to think that with age comes a certain realism as to what’s possible in a year – so here goes this year’s effort.

I think 2011 is going to be an especially exciting year – especially if the one big prediction I have for this coming year ends up coming true – that we’re about to embark on a new era of unprecedented collaboration and social interaction, that we’re doing that with a renewed sense of discipline, all-inclusion, and transparency, that we are, in short – on the cusp of seeing the world’s first fully social business.

Companies embracing social is nothing new admittedly – indeed my own work has centered on helping companies to use social technologies to drive corporate strategies for over 15 years now.  So what’s different now?

For starters, I think this year sees companies finally take it seriously – as a corporate competence to be achieved and maintained, rather than a faddish concept to be played with in any of its prior incarnations (knowledge management, collaboration, social media, etc).  I see companies increasingly throwing away the intangible mantle of “social media” programs focused on improved interactions with the consumer – and instead looking for ways to integrate social technologies to produce some very tangibly sized profitable gains. Nothing moves a company to embrace a new way of working more than big profits.

I also think that Social Technology companies themselves have matured more – taking ownership of the need to provide companies with a tangible route to those big gains. The increasing differentiation within the current software market is proof of that as vendors realize that companies don’t (and can’t) buy general “Collaboration” or “Social” tools – because they simply can’t achieve anything (let alone everything) with them.  General collaboration platforms like Sharepoint and Jive will continue to exist – but will continue to become secondary to the applications, (like Spigit, Yammer and others), that are developed to run on top of them and will drive the real value of social tools to the organization.

2011 will see Innovation continue to be the “Gateway Drug” to Social Tool adoption in the enterprise – providing an easy route for large companies to value and monetize the global interaction of the “social populations” (employees, customers, vendors, strategic partners, shareholders, and more) at their disposal.

Once that value is established – I see companies starting to effectively inject “social input” into increasingly strategic parts of their business. We’re already starting to see the first variants of this emerging in Finance (eg Microfinancing), Manufacturing and Design (eg Crowdsourcing), HR (eg Employee Engagement initiatives), and even Management generally (eg Collaborative Decision Making).

All this leads me back to my initial prediction – the emergence of the first true Social Enterprise. That is, a company that has social input strategically injected into EVERY part of their organization. Where every business process includes elements of mass social interaction between people inside and/or outside the traditional company walls. A fully open business that is able to leverage a global knowledge resources pool in multiple ways to achieve its strategic goals.

Is that possible in 2011? It’s a bit of a stretch I admit – and more likely to happen at the start-up level rather than a large global enterprise at this stage – but I believe that even that’s coming in the longer run. In the words of Hamel and late C K Prahalad – companies will eventually be forced to redefine what their true “core competencies” are – and then outsource the rest. Although instead of outsourcing it to an emerging global economy because labor is cheaper, they’ll be outsourcing it to a global social population because the work, the solutions, and the results will simply be better than they can achieve on their own.

The winners in the next generation of businesses won’t be the companies that can come up with and produce the next winning product – but will be instead the companies that can rally the world around to do it for them.

That’s my big bet for 2011 – what’s yours?

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Innovation – do you WANT to win? Well, do you?

13 10 2010

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If you’ve never been to the annual Business Innovation Factory conference (#BIF6 on twitter), it’s really quite a trip. More of a mini-TED conference than anything specifically innovation related – it’s all about enabling people to share stories about things they’ve achieved, thought of, experienced, and so on.  The end result is that you don’t necessarily walk away with a series of bullet point “To-Do”’s like you might at other conferences – but you do end up with a simmering pot of interesting thoughts and ideas just waiting to boil over the top.

This year, two speakers said things that stuck in my head and kept me thinking. Such is the way my mind works that unfortunately I can no longer remember who they were – but I’m sure someone will eventually remind me in the comments below this post 🙂

The first of these insights was an observation that, if you have two equally matched sports teams, and one team’s members actively want to win, whilst the other team isn’t bothered – then chances are, the team that wants to win, will do so. Sounds obvious really, but it brings an interesting question to mind when you bring that concept into the business world – which, at the heart of it, has similar competitive dynamics.

If you have two equally matched companies competing against each other, the company that collectively wants to win more – will probably do so. “Desire to Win” is a competitive differentiator in effect.

With that in mind, however – how many of us actively try to instill that desire to win into our employees? How many companies actively engage in “Win Management”? You could even say that what really differentiates a successful innovator/entrepreneur from normal people is that never-ending drive to win “the game” of business.

This is even more amplified in the Innovation world where the risk of failure is ever present and embraced as a part of everyday life. It is a daily competition to beat the odds and win the game of innovation.

Pair that thought up now with another insight from that same conference. Apparently, at any one point in most organizations, only 20% of the staff are actively engaged and enjoying the job they’re doing.  I would personally argue that that number seems a little high to me – and is probably rotating too – that is, we’re not necessarily talking about the same 20% year round, as people naturally go through cycles of loving/hating/being indifferent to their work.

I would also argue that one of the reasons why people don’t get engaged in their jobs, is because their jobs (ie their companies) don’t engage them. They feel like they have no say, no ability to make an impact, no reason to want to win….

So it stands to reason that if a company really wants to win at Innovation they need to both instill a competitive desire to win in their organizations, and to tap into and maintain that desire by actively engaging their population in strategic innovation decisions.

And by “Engagement” I don’t mean just listening to your employees – I mean actually “Doing” something with their input. Business, and especially Innovation – is a team sport – and no one wants to be relegated to being the guy on the subs bench that never gets on the field.

So now you know what you have to do, you have to ask yourself – Do you want to win at Innovation? Well, do you?…








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