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

From the blog

Social Business in 2013 – A Commitment

La Palma - Roque Los Muchachos (Observatorio)Before we move further on in trying to address the final conclusions I shared on a recent blog post under the heading Social Business in 2013 – A Challenge, I thought I would go ahead commenting further first on that third piece from that recent CMSWire article that I published earlier on, where I talked about perhaps one of the most important, key concepts for Social Business to thrive in 2013 and beyond: A Commitment. More than anything else, because over the course of the last few months, perhaps couple of years, I have seen very little of it, as I have blogged about a couple of times in articles like Why Social Business Keeps Failing to Deliver or Dear Social Business Evangelist, Where Art Thou? and somehow it’s starting to bring back memories of the same trip that Knowledge Management went through back in the day. About 15 to 18 years ago. Yes, the buzz is there, the hype, too! The selling and marketing of it, but when you are talking about making a commitment, that is, raising the stakes to provoke that profound business transformation we all know it’s fully capable of (about how to make it work), it’s nowhere to be seen. And that’s worrying. Very worrying.

Perhaps we could go ahead and illustrate it with a cartoon from Tom Fishburne (Please do go ahead and read his blog post on the topic, too! It will be worth while a read!) that I am sure you would all agree with me that it would make the point incredibly well. If not, judge for yourselves on what I mean with that keyword of Commitment (With a capital C) and the lack of it in today’s current Social Business landscape:

Just brilliant, don’t you think? I can imagine that at this point in time plenty of you folks out there would be musing about the fact that you may know plenty of firms who would fall under any of those various different strategies except perhaps for the “All too rare” that Tom mentions and that I feel is why we need to raise the stakes on not only what Social Business could do, but what it would eventually need to do! And not just with that flavour of a focus on delighting customers, but with employees and knowledge workers alike! Think about it. When was the last time that you helped your fellow colleague(s) to be more awesome, become smarter than you are at what you do… without asking anything in return? See what I mean?

There are big key words in here at play in this so-called social business transformation that very few people, specially, vendors, have put into practice and perhaps that’s something that we can help them understand when talking about commitment. Concepts like empathy, equity, meritocracy, transparency, openness, authenticity, trust, engagement, participation, constructive feedback / criticism and so forth are still very much missing from vast majority of Social Business vendors out there. And I suspect that customers, whether internal or external, are just about to become really fed up with all of that NOT walking the talk from all of those social business vendors that in most cases are showing how full they are of themselves in any which way and nothing else. Very little substance coming along due to that lack of establishing some serious commitment behind their words on helping their own customers be more awesome

In that CMSWire article I got published by the end of last year I described it in these terms. To quote: 

“And finally, here we are with the commitment. In the quest for most brands to become more open, trustworthy, honest, transparent, interconnected, smarter and authentic, in other words, more engaging with their own customers AND employees, provide better quality service, better products, better customer service, and so forth, in 2013 we are going to see how vendors (and not just for Social Businesses, but everyone who may well be in Sales) are going to make that giant leap of faith and start walking the talk more often.

In the world of Social, 2013 is going to accelerate the transformation of vendors talking one thing and doing a completely different other. It’s no longer going to work that way. Rather the opposite. Businesses, mainly through learning by doing, will be called upon by their customers and especially their very own employees, on the main reasons why they are not walking the talk. Why they are not provoking their own business transformation through social networking when they may well be big advocates themselves of the change?

We are going to witness how trust is going to become more critical than ever, not from the perspective of how you can gain my / our / their trust, but more how you can keep it alive and kicking every single day of the year by starting to put your actions behind your words. Because if you don’t manage to make that happen in an effective and engaging manner, I suspect both customers AND employees will move on.

Brands and businesses will be striving for authenticity, for uniqueness, for what makes them special, [essential] against everyone else. Customers and employees will be striving to belong to those brands and businesses whose commitment is one of wanting to transform themselves into the next generation of how we get work done in the 21st century: sustainable growth.”

That’s the Commitment (with the Capital C) that we are about to see unfold and unleash, both inside and outside of the firewall for most businesses out there. Of particular interest, I would think, would be the bold text highlighting the emphasis on walking the talk, on learning by doing, because we are starting to see, if not already, how businesses who bought into the idea of becoming a Social Business by purchasing some [Perhaps (too) expensive] social software a year or two ago are starting to wonder about what next, because, amongst several other things, it’s just not working! Remember how 70% of the corporate world knowledge workforce is totally disengaged? Or how 7 out of 10 Enterprise 2.0 deployments will fail, according to some piece of research that was conducted last year? Knowledge Management anyone? This is, indeed, when those social business vendors would need to stand out AND deliver. Put their actions behind their words. The smooth talk is way over by now! Not just for their customers, but also for their own employees. Only then will we be capable of talking about Socially Integrated Enterprises thriving to help you become *even* more awesome.

The rest is just a waste of time. And we all know life is just too short to keep wasting along those precious moments, so I would suggest keep pushing not just for your / our customers, but, essentially for *all* of us. We cannot longer afford statements like Social Business / Enterprise 2.0 has been here for over 6 years and we still have yet to witness that true, rather profound, social transformation of today’s corporate world to become tomorrow’s social workplace.

Our workplace. 

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  1. We made it to the Observatorio! Things are getting interesting now..

    re: commitment. We need to turn our fears of commitment into habits of commitment. We’ve been trained to listen (old media), trained not to listen (new media), now we need to unlearn, relearn and begin to listen and talk (social media). Vendors need to turn their prescriptive solutions (for IT, HR, MKT “problems”) into preventive measures (for ee health).

    1. Hi Joachim! Love it! Glad you spotted the connotation around the Observatorio! Well done! Indeed, we have finally made it and now it’s when the *real* work gets very very interesting! Loving as well your commentary around habits of commitment, because I think you are right on the money and perhaps not just for vendors, but also for businesses in general as well. Specially, around commitment that goes through dual highways and not just one way: i.e. the employee to the employer. Social Business does enable that mutual understanding of commitment on both parties and we would need to do plenty of unlearn and relearn in this aspect if we would want to make it work just right.

      Yes, I know most folks would identify this one aspect with loyalty, but it’s again way more than just that! Again, it’s the dual highway we are missing, covering all of the different aspects within a business, and not just necessarily sales, marketing, communications, development and so on. It’s coming right into the heart of that single group that can help provoke that final transformation for the unlearning and relearning processes to work!

      Exciting times!

    1. Hi Stephan! Happy New Year, my friend! Glad you could drop by the blog to share a comment or two along the way! Much appreciated! Absolutely!! I have been blogging over the years about plenty of the superb stuff that Kathy has been doing in this space of “delighting your customers” and, like Tom mentioned on his blog post, it’s the least we could do about it, that is, about business: caring for our customers, whether internal or external. The thing is that somehow if I have been saying for a while how knowledge workers are disengaged, the very same thing could be said about customers being totally disengaged, specially, due to that vendor candor on only being interested in selling versus building something much more meaningful: (business) relationships.

      The challenge AND the commitment for 2013 and beyond has now been set! For all of us! 🙂

  2. Luis, it’s true that “social business” risks becoming a joke. The hype is very reminiscent of knowledge management – both the promise and the failure to deliver. 2013 may be the year in which social business flourishes but I would prefer to see the social side as the result of some core principles rather than the driver of change. What are those core principles? An organization must trust its employees. It must be trusted by its customers. It must be open. And, it must deliver. If we have these principles in place, we should be positive about sharing them with our clients and our contacts and we can happily become social. If not, no number of policies or social software will help.

    1. Hi Ara, thanks a lot for dropping by and for the feedback comments! I don’t think I would be stretching it that far of considering social business becoming a joke. I think it’s more running the risk of becoming “just another” IT initiative that failed to blend soon and good enough into how we run our businesses today. Like many other hundreds or thousands in the recent past, i.e. last 2 or 3 decades.

      Goodness! Big words those you mentioned above as well around Trust, Openness and Delivery. Right at the heart of what most of us are starting to feel that business transformation needs to happen and, funny enough, have you noticed how for each of those you don’t necessarily need social networking platforms to make it happen. We, knowledge workers, along with the firms we work in, and our customers, can become rather open, trustworthy and prone to deliver and excel without having to rely much on technology, but on the mindset, on the shift of habits that you very well have put together above. Something that clearly indicates the revolution is no longer on using these social technologies but on provoking that business transformation of who we are and what we do, tasks and activities that are ultimately influenced by HR driven process. That’s where the real transformation needs to happen, in my opinion, and why we still have got plenty of really good work to get done eventually!

      Thanks for adding further up and here’s to a great 2013 where change happens … or else! 🙂

  3. Hi Luis, interesting post and interesting idea. Commitment ? To what ? It’s very difficult to say, because social business participates in a deep transformation of the corporation, by making its social fabric richer. But this deep transformation is complex. No wonder that evangelists, vendors and clients alike are a bit lost as to what exactly social business is accomplishing.
    At the very least, social business projects are helping employees develop an intimacy with social technologies within the workplace, and that in itself is important.
    In my experience, social business projects are also developing a new sens of autonomy in project leaders and members and even a sense of responsibility as to what they should accomplish in their own corporations with thèse new technologies and ways of working.
    I think 2013 is the year we go deeper still into technology and into management evolution. We go deeper still into building the pillars that will allow a new kind of innovation, more radical, more institutionnal to take place.
    I would committ to continue searching and working with clients that believe in liberating individual initiative and collective engagement, and that are willing to take a risk.

    1. What a fantastic set of comments, Luis! Many many thanks for sharing it along with us all! Just wonderful! I guess Commitment from the perspective that’s now a good time to start putting your actions where you have put your words all along. We are not seeing enough “Walk the talk” or “Learn by doing”, for instance. Take the example of those so-called Social Business Evangelists you mentioned above, as well as Social Business vendors… How many of them annotate, or even complain, on a daily basis they are incredibly overwhelm by the huge amount of emails they still receive for work related matters. Really? Put your actions behind your words, please. If you are a true Social Business evangelist, prove it and live it. If not, start looking for something else, because the stakes are going to become a lot higher and not walking the talk would indicate you are not much of a believer of what you are, say, “selling”.

      Commitment as well from the perspective it’s now probably a good time for businesses to start realising, through social networking, a few things and key concepts that we have been missing from the corporate world for decades: trust, openness, transparency, equity, democracy, servant leadership, and so forth, which would all eventually reflect in our society and I feel that’s also part of the commitment we are missing out there at the moment, where the corporate world has lost that sense of responsibility towards society, when it should breathe it all along.

      As you can see, lots of good work to get done still, I am afraid, so glad you will be pushing gently further on that business transformation, like most of us! Keep it up, please! 🙂

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