E L S U A ~ A KM Blog by Luis Suarez

From the blog

Social Business in 2013 – A Challenge

Gran Canaria - Roque Bentayga in the WinterWhile I was pondering further along preparing my coming back to blogging I just couldn’t help reflecting on a good number of the various different articles that I have posted over here in the last few months, some of them exposing, quite frankly, perhaps too bluntly, at times, some of the various different challenges that Social Business, still today in 2013, keeps facing in order to provoke that massive business transformation we have all been anticipating for quite a bit. And it looks like some of those articles themselves seemed to have struck a chord with you folks out there as well, because, judging from the Top 10 Most Popular Blog Posts in 2012 at http://elsua.net, I can see how some of them have made us dive deeper into some amazing conversations that will help us quite a bit, I suspect, tackle those business challenges in 2013 and beyond. 

And that is a good thing, except that I suppose that’s just the beginning of what we have got to face ahead of us still. More than anything else, because in the last three months, while I was mostly away from this blog, I kept bumping into a couple of relatively new challenges that I think are going to present lots of great opportunities for us all in the year ahead in the space of Social Business. Both of them being rather unexpected, specially, if you judge the last 3 to 5 years in this space. And here is why … 

But before we go deeper into that, and since I guess you may all be a bit curious as to what were those Top 10 Most Popular Blog Posts from 2012 from http://elsua.net I have taken the liberty of including the titles, with the their links, over here, so that you may have another chance to take a look into them, and with the end goal for myself as well to perhaps take another look later on this year and see how those challenges have been addressed, or how they may have evolved altogether, if at all. It should be quite an interesting exercise, don’t you think? Here is the list: 

Top 10 Most Popular Blog Posts in 2012 at http://elsua.net

  1. Twitter Is Where Conversations Go To Die
  2. Dear Social Business Evangelist, Where Art Thou?
  3. Why Social Business Keeps Failing to Deliver
  4. Liberate Your Company Through Employee Engagement
  5. Reflections from 2011 – A World Without eMail – The Documentary
  6. Productivity Tips on Presentations: Inform, Inspire and Motivate
  7. @Janetter or How I Started to Enjoy Twitter Once Again
  8. Once Upon a Time … The Power of Storytelling in Business
  9. Why Do I Share My Knowledge?
  10. 40-Hour Work Work – The Magic of Sustainable Growth 

Ok, back to what I feel would be the main two key business challenges for Social Business over the course of the next few months. One of them I have already talked about it on a recent publication I quoted over here in my previous blog post and the second one I’m going to leave it for a little bit later in the month, once I have got some additional confirmation details as to whether it will turn itself into a challenge, or perhaps just another opportunity. So let’s go and talk about

Challenge #1 for Social Business: Social Networking Is Just for Fun

Yes, I know what you are all thinking about. It’s not really that much of a relatively new challenge, since it’s probably been there all along. And you are probably right. I think what I am referring to now though is how over the course of the last few months that whole aspect of social networking just for fun has been amplified tremendously judging by the huge impact that social technologies have been having in our societies as a whole! Gran Canaria in the Winter

And perhaps for a good number of reasons, too! Whether businesses are still blocking the use of social networks behind the firewall empowering inadvertently their knowledge workers to make that assumption (and rightly so!) that social tools are just meant to be utilised for personal use, outside of work; whether it’s because knowledge workers do not want to mix personal / private AND work as part of the same entity (Themselves!) -this may well be a cultural thing that could vary from one country to another, or one geography to another; whether we are reaching way beyond the two year threshold for Social Business within the corporate world and we are still bumping into research studies that keep confirming how 70% of the Enterprise 2.0 deployments have / will fail to deliver, which doesn’t sound too welcoming for those knowledge workers who see the many benefits for themselves with regards to Social, yet, it hasn’t struck a chord when they enter the firewall. 

I eventually wrote more extensively about this particular challenge at the end of last year on that CMSWire article that I got published under the heading “Social Business in 2013: A Challenge, An Opportunity, A Commitment“, but I think it would be worth while quoting the section Social Business in 2013 – A Challenge to see where I’m coming from and perhaps for you folks as well to confirm whether that perception is something that you may have seen, or experienced, or talked about in the last few months. To quote: 

For a good number of years we have witnessed plenty of businesses insisting on blocking the use of social networking tools within the firewall, hoping to stop the use of these social technologies in order to prevent wasted time while at work. This has now essentially backfired, as we have all seen the use of social media tools increasing more and more over time. Erik Qualman recently showed this in the next take of Social Media 2013 video clips.

On its own, this presents a good challenge for Social Business, because as fewer and fewer businesses block social networking tools, knowledge workers have increased their exposure and extended use of social tools in their personal lives, but not in relation to their work. And they would like to keep it this way.

If you take a look into rather revealing elements like Twitter’s Trending Topics, Facebook and LinkedIn’s timelines, or Trending in Google Plus, you will see how we do have a rather interesting challenge for 2013 where businesses will need to focus not on driving the internal and external adoption of social software, but on strongly convincing their own knowledge workers that social technologies can be used as well as business tools. Right now, we are starting to see how workers remain unconvinced, while being incredibly active on social media from a personal, private perspective.

I can imagine how there would be plenty of knowledge workers out there who may not be too sure about this being necessarily too much of a challenge, but I am starting to suspect it will be. If fact, it is already! Just look around you how many fellow colleagues you know at work who are incredibly social outside the firewall engaging in Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google Plus, and whatever else, yet when you look around inside the firewall they keep using the same good old traditional collaborative tools: email, Instant Messaging, even the phone! And it gets worse, perhaps, because when you ask them why they are not using internal social networking tools deployed by their company they take a rather defensive position stating how no-one should determine what’s best for them. They surely know better! They just don’t want to mix pleasure AND work together, because, you know, after all, you just can’t have fun while at work. It would show like you are slacking off! 

And that is going to be a challenge! And a quite ironic one, too! Because if you look into it, we have spent several years now trying to convince people of the genuine value behind social networking activities to help improve and augment the way we collaborate and share our knowledge out in the open much more effectively and once we did that something went wrong along the lines and, instead, that value just remained intact for personal, private matters, whereas in a work environment email still rules, or so they tell me. My initial reaction, of course, is… Really? But then over the course of the last few weeks, and in all of the various different customer or internal Social Business enablement events, workshops, seminars, conference events, etc. etc. I have attended and participated in that worst case scenario keeps getting confirmed. Sadly. 

Gran Canaria - Artenara in the WinterWhat can we, social business evangelists, do then? Well, there are plenty of things that we could do to address this challenge and turn it into a huge opportunity for Social Business, but I’m just going to focus on a couple of them that I have decided to become even stronger about them than ever before as part of my focus areas for 2013 and beyond. The first one, of course, as you may well have guessed, is to keep pushing for “A World Without eMail, now that we (Yes, indeed, I can now call it a Movement and very soon you will find out plenty more why!) are just about to enter its 5th anniversary since I first ditched corporate work email at IBM and instead decided to lead by example, embracing social networking tools not just for work, but also as a philosophy, as a way of life, that is, social networking enhancing living a life in perpetual beta as my good friend Harold Jarche would probably say as well. 

The thing though is that the stakes are higher. Much higher than in February 2008 when that little crazy idea of giving up on corporate email came about through my brain and decided to give it a go, why not?, despite people telling me I was (Probably still am!) rather crazy to do such thing and how perhaps I may well be on my way out getting fired in under two weeks. Well, 5 years on, and I’m still here!, continuing to challenge the status quo of how certain things happen in the corporate environment. Work. Our work. Or, at least, the traditional concept of what work entails.

The challenge is tougher, too!, because we need to, finally, understand that, after the couple of years of honeymoon between the business world and Social Business (Yes, I know! Perhaps a bit too long of a honeymoon, don’t you think?), we are still witnessing that 70% of failure rate that I mentioned above in successful Enterprise 2.0 deployments and that’s just huge! Something that we probably can’t afford much any longer. So what can we do about this one? Well, as a starting point we will need to start thinking about Social Business in higher terms than ever before. Aim for a bigger purpose. Yes, Sales, Marketing & Communications, New Hires, Technical Leadership / Thought Leadership, IT Infrastructure and so forth are cool beans and everything, but they are not enough. Not anymore. The stakes are higher. We are just scratching through the surface of that business transformation we all know that Social Business is rather capable of provoking. How? Hummm, what do you think? In my opinion, it’s going to be down to two different groups, within the corporate world, that we would need to aim at higher than ever. Can you guess which ones those would be? 

(That will be the topic of my next blog post over here … To be continued …)

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  1. I’ve been looking around as well, the obvious ones would be HR and L&D (albeit on a more strategic level), but reaching beyond functions, I think you are looking at individuals/stakeholders that are willing to take a serious look at organizational design and transformation..even beyond that I currently explore aspect of Collaborative Sensemaking.. (more to explore: https://www.google.com/search?q=kellden+collaborative+sensemaking)

    Let’s aim for a higher purpose.

    1. Hi Joachim, thanks a lot for dropping by and for the excellent commentary! Spot on with regards to the recommendation on Collaborative Sensemaking and superb that link with tons of materials shared generously by John Kellden! We know each other as well from Google Plus and his superb reflections on the topic and surely right on the money!

      However, I think that organisational design and transformation needs to originate not necessarily from individuals or stakeholders, since they have already and we haven’t progressed enough in provoking that transformation. You hinted HR and that surely is getting closer! That’s the group that I feel needs to finally “wake up” to Social Business and, like it’s been written a few times already, become the main force behind that social business transformation.

      It’s probably now a good time, too, Joachim, for HR to, finally, understand how it needs to transition from Human Resources into Human Relationships and how to manage and facilitate those accordingly to the time we live in 🙂

      Talking about aiming for a higher purpose! And that’s just group #1 … Group #2 is even much more exciting and incredibly challenging hehe (More to come on that one shortly…)

      Thanks again for the generous feedback, my friend! Greatly appreciated!

        1. Absolutely! It’s going to be rather fascinating over the course of next few months, could of years! And thanks much for pointing me to Jon Ingam’s G+ Community on HR 2.0. I know Jon very well and part of the inspiration of this new re-focus on Social Business within HR comes from him. He’s done tremendous amount of great work in that space and surely look forward to diving into G+ communities and make a good selection of the ones I would want to tap into! Yours are Jon’s are on my Top Picks!!

          Exciting times, Joachim! 😀

    1. Hi Anna, awww, many thanks for dropping by and for noticing the blog post! And a Happy New Year to you, too! Yes, the following round of blog posts are going to be rather interesting to set the stage of what my main focus areas are going to be in the next year, and beyond …

      Making it count all the way! ;-))

  2. Hi Luis
    thank you for bursting back in to the blogosphere with your usual energy and insights bringing us your thoughts for 2013! Welcome back!

    I’d like to move this discussion further forward
    (if I may be so bold) and leave aside “the world without email” and on to your thoughts on how knowledge workers separate work from personal/leisure when it comes to using social tools. So what’s OK outside the enterprise is different to what’s happening inside – pleasure + work does not equal current social business?

    Well now let’s assume knowledge workers are fully engaged in the enterprise using the social tools provided and are using all the external social tools for their personal/leisure life and getting a lot of exposure as individuals.

    Those same individuals then start using the external tools for business purposes (i.e tweeting for their business/products – using fb for business interactions) and apart from increasing the scope of “social Business” as we know it, get further exposure on two levels – but still as one individual.

    Social technologies then blur the distinction between business and personal of that individual – it becomes harder to distinguish and comes with inherent dangers – someone says something to the business audience that was only meant for the personal friends – forgetting where and who they are saying it to…
    Is it not “fear” (of an unwanted exposure) that perhaps continues to make knowledge workers keep their social tools separate – what’s appropriate for one platform may not be desired for another – however advanced or limited the engagement on any? The challenge is to remove the fear.

    Thanks for the great post Luis and happy new year!

    1. Hi Marie-Louise, many thanks for dropping by, for noticing the post and for the kind wishes! Yes, indeed, it’s *good* to be back after all of this time and see how the conversations on the blog posts are way way better than the original piece! That’s one of the many many things that I have loved all along about blogging and why I am still having a blast! Thanks much for your generous contributions and let’s dive into them right away!

      What’s OK outside the enterprise is that particular aspect of how knowledge workers can self-organise on what drives value for them, get the work done (even if with a personal flavour) AND then get recognised for that piece of work. In a corporate environment the first (self-organise) and the last (get proper recognition) components are just not happening frequently enough, which is essentially getting knowledge workers completely disengaged and demotivated to make social business work for them. See? Think of Enterprise 2.0 being out there since 2006, that’s nearly 6 years, then add on the moniker for Social Business from shortly after and yet look at Deloitte’s piece of research from a year ago where it confirmed how over 70% of today’s corporate knowledge workforce is totally disengaged from work! Is Social Business helping out? Not much. It’s happening, but in a different way that most enterprises haven’t yet comprehended on the final reach / goal: knowledge workers pushing themselves off the cliff and on to outside the firewall to carry out work they care about, are passionate about and very knowledgeable on and that they would get recognised for. Something that keeps getting missed by the corporate world, if we judge by that huge % of employees totally disengaged.

      That’s why I am not too sure it’s fear of using social technologies what most knowledge workers out there are afraid to do, but more question what are businesses doing to help provoke that particular business transformation they know needs to happen with the adoption of social software, but that 6 years later it just hasn’t happened. Corporate businesses are still very much driven by hierarchies, political and bullying games, promoting and boosting individual competition, hoarding and protection of knowledge, and all of those good evil habits and ways of doing business we have cultivated and nurtured for decades. Before tackling the question about fear I would want to question HR, as part of its own transformation into Human Relationships what it plans to do with social business to facilitate, lead and nurture people, versus just having the zillionth attempt at managing the unmanageable: people.

      That’s why on the CMSWire article I mentioned the huge opportunity HR has got ahead of itself to help drive, with success, the full business transformation we have all been asking for. The rest is just striking for breadcrumbs that can only feed you up to so long … 6 years gone by is already 3 years too late!

      Bring it on!

      1. Hi Luis
        Many thanks for your thorough and thoughtful response 🙂 and I can understand where you are coming from and what you are saying only too well.! I also agree about the opportunities that HR depts have ahead of them.
        However do you not think it’s a two way street? That individuals need to persist with making it work and continuing to connect and engage. You say that the ability to self organise (get the job done) and get recognition within the enterprise is not happening frequently enough in the corporate world- but how is such recognition being measured? And how is that then being measured against those that continue to use social tools to their benefit on the outside? Are you in fact saying that the Deloitte study that shows how 70% of corporate knowledge workforce are disengaged is down to the failure of social business (and those that drive it from within the enterprise) to meet its goals?
        I think many find the connection with social tools with HOW they do their job AND shape their careers a difficult one within the enterprise – and fear of losing their reputation within the enterprise amounts to a greater fear than shaping it on the outside where they are not in regular contact with the people they connect and engage with (she says nervously…)
        Keeping things separate then starts to appear as a better option?

        Six years may have gone by but there are still lots of new people coming on board who don’t see it’s too late – in fact it might just be starting to happen… 🙂

        Fantastic discussion Luis – it’s all a learning curve – thanks very much!

        1. Hi Marie-Louise, thanks much for the follow-up! Greatly appreciated the extended commentary and the conversation! Lots of really good stuff! Yes, indeed, it’s a two way street, but unfortunately all along it’s been turned on into a single one way street, that one of the employees who keep exercising their patience and resilience to the extreme hoping that things will eventually shift AND change, yet that change never happens. It hasn’t happen in the over 18 years that social software tools have been there. I think it’ll be critical to see and understand how much those same knowledge workers would be to wait, exercise some extended patience and be resilient. The change is worth it though. But will we be able to stick around for that long in general?

          RE: “how is such recognition being measured?” > I am not sure what you would think, but most of the folks I talk to, customers and business partners, as well as internally, keep confirming that such recognition is rather just not happening (Because the current business conditions are tough, even if they are not!!) and if it is happening it’s taking place in a form and shape that discourages knowledge sharing, collaborating out there in the open, connecting, networking, helping each other. Instead, it’s been recognised from an individual perspective where individuals need to continue competing with one another to just win that yearly recognition, even though they may well have been working on it for years! If you look into it, for an employer’s point of view it’s the easiest, most effective manner of embracing the mantra: “divide and conquer”. Meaning, foster and boost their competitive, fighting spirit hitting on each other and that would keep them weak enough for certain groups to stay on top. That’s what’s happening to the recognition space at the moment. Not pretty, quite the opposite, demotivating and rather enervating, when you come to think about the amount of political, bullying and sucking up atmosphere it provokes time and time again in the corporate world.

          RE: “re you in fact saying that the Deloitte study that shows how 70% of corporate knowledge workforce are disengaged is down to the failure of social business (and those that drive it from within the enterprise) to meet its goals?” > No, I am not saying that, by all means. The study just measured how disengaged employees are due to demotivating work, where meaning, purpose, recognition are lacking, where their management and leadership teams are not up to the expectations of helping their employees or showing they care and so forth. Social Business is not provoking such disengagement. On the contrary, those very same executive and management teams have been claiming that social business could help address that, and ironically are finding out through some brutal exercises of constructive criticism how it is not. If the work is not meaningful, nor purposeful enough, if proper recognition is not there, if proper 21st century leadership is not leading by example, social business won’t be able to turn the tide at all. It’s that big, fat pig in the pigsty that we keep trying to put some lipstick on thinking it’ll improve the outlook. No, it won’t. There is a much more fundamental problem at stake that social business is just continuing to bump into all around: lack of true leadership to provoke the change and social transformation, because things are much much better all along keeping up with the status quo. At least, for a good few.

          Marie-Louise, I would probably make a double distinction over here with regards to the concept of reputation: 1. Peer to peer reputation, that although potentially feared it’s always embraced as the way to move forward on that particular aspect of learning along the way to become better at what you do in an interconnected, more collaborative world and 2. Executive / Management reputation: I think this is the one most knowledge workers would fear at the moment for the risk of messing things up & forget about that long term awaited promotion, recognition, or whatever else. A bit disappointing and perhaps too disgraceful that executives and managers still are waiting for that “opportunity” to nail down their employees for something wrong / bad they may have done, i.e. to focus on their weaknesses, versus their strengths, to measure their performance and reputation. That’s pretty much what’s nailing the opportunity for social business to grow. Call it fear, call it intimidation, call it, playing the political corporate b*ll*cks, but that’s essentially what that business transformation needs to eradicate once and for all. For everyone. No exceptions.

          PS. By the way, 6 years later, we are *all* on that learning curve, with different degrees of experience and experimentation / adaption, but never stopping altogether. Always on the move … forward 🙂

          Thanks again for the wonderful exchange!

  3. you wrote: “Well, as a starting point we will need to start thinking about Social Business in higher terms than ever before.” +1
    First, let’s do it out of vendor’s events and business schools think tanks 😉
    Thanks Luis and Happy New Year 😉

    1. Hi Claude, thanks a lot as well for dropping by and for the good comments! I am giggling over here as I write this blog post, because my next blog post that I will share during the course of today, will be talking about *exactly* that same premise you mention above “out of vendors and business schools”… But with a twist, that I am sure you are going to enjoy quite a bit, since I have been wanting to write that article for a while and I think it’s ready to go!

      Stay tuned for it! And a Happy New Year to you, too! 🙂

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