Social Media, Value Creation and the Risk of Missing Out

SummerSweet

I have been pondering and writing about the on-going change in the way we work, now and in the future. I especially love to evangelize about and to the people like myself, the middle-aged knowledge workers. A new kind of social pressure is on us.

I feel this need for change everyday in my work and in the business environments I am actively part of. Yes, I particularly chose to say feel. I have one skill I like a lot: I combine numerous signals and facts, added with intuition. And yes, I am 100% layman futurist. You may laugh at that, however there are many reason-reasons to take the social revolution seriously. Here are two recent blog articles on the topic.

Firstly, Shel Israel wrote in Forbes:

“For the most part, social media—like rock and roll—is here to stay. And organizations that continue to ignore it will simply fade away. And that is our key point (in a book The Age of Context he’s collaborating with Robert Scoble). In a very short period of time social media has risen from oblivion, and is part of the lives and work of most people in the developed world.”

Secondly, check out my friend Oscar Berg’s blog post “Time is Ripe for Social Business” in which he lists recent research about this topic. Here’s one pick from his post:

“The potential for value creation when social technologies are used to improve collaboration and communication within and across enterprises is twice as big as the value that can be created through all other uses across the value chain. Based on numerous case studies and in-depth research in four sectors (consumer packaged goods, consumer finance, professional services, and advanced manufacturing), McKinsey Global Institute analyzed the potential value that could be obtained through the use of social technologies. The total potential value at stake in these sectors is $900 billion to $1.3 trillion annually. A third of that potential comes from business function-specific applications of social technologies in product development, marketing & sales, operations, and customer support, but two-thirds would arise from using social technologies to improve the collaboration and communications of knowledge workers within these functions and across the enterprise. (McKinsey Global Institute)”

Impressive figures, one of the key notions being value creation.

The Soft and Hard Elements of Value Creation

What an interesting combination of the soft and hard elements value creation has. I cannot help reflecting back to the year 2001 when I wrote my Masters thesis about value creation in business processes. My 11-years old Analyzing Framework for Value Creation is a very simple model on how organizations are creating value; the ways of enhancing the supply chain processes, and how they can find new ways for cooperation within the business ecosystems.

A bit outdated, but I was on the right path then, wasn’t I? But wow, I had no idea about how powerful new ways of communication there will be.

Here below a not-at-all-fine-tuned picture of my old framework from 2001.

On the outer circle there’s a blend of ‘soft’ elements: Culture, Commitment, Leadership, and Strategy. The middle circle represents the two main tasks associated with managing business processes: Coordination and Integration. On the inner circle I’ve chosen three set of pairs: Infrastructure & Architecture, Relations & Processes, and Information & Knowledge. All these further having an effect on the ultimate target in the middle – Value innovation and Creation.

Kind of Social Business 1.0, or Enterprise 1.5, isn’t it?

Now we all know that the real powerful value creation happens at the edge of organizations and that requires very different management and communications practices. No news here for you.

Transformation Ahead

However, there’s one specific aspect that bothers me almost daily, and makes me work harder: How will the “professionally middle-aged” (not necessarily chronologically) knowledge workers cope, and how to work on with our attitude towards the rapid change, and further to value creation. 

I have gone a long way on my transformation path, and already feeling mostly good about the change. But of course, there are many of us who hate this, fear this and/or despise this change. Most of us conveniently somewhere in between these two. There is both healthy and not-so-healthy skepticism towards social technology and social business, regardless of the length of your career. This change comes close to your very personal sphere and therefore causes the most interesting reactions and fears. Nothing wrong with that, we need time to think, learn and unlearn. The reactions are naturally based on the personal experiences, but also on the attitude that one have towards the future change. We all do have our own way of coping with it.

On the organization level, many businesses are facing huge challenges; global competition, economic issues and insecurity, and missing the right leadership skills. From the knowledge work perspective, the people and innovation should be in the core. That requires a new kind of leadership, and strategy as well.

My pet peeve is to observe and learn from this phenomenon, and to help my fellow knowledge workers whenever I can. Finally, what about the risks? There are many, and I chose one: the risk of not taking the risk.

Risk of Missing Out – ROMO

After reading an interesting New York Times article “Turn Off the Phone (and the Tension)”, a new idea and an expression came into my mind: Risk of Missing Out. Let me explain the background first. In the article Anil Dash, a writer and entrepreneur, is speaking about “Joy of Missing Out,” or JOMO. The beauty of sharing and enjoying moments also when not present.

“There can be, and should be, a blissful, serene enjoyment in knowing, and celebrating, that there are folks out there having the time of their life at something that you might have loved to, but are simply skipping,” he wrote.

A beautiful thought. I am often jomoying.

The idea of JOMO was a continuation for FOMO, or the “fear of missing out,” a term coined by the founder of Flickr, Caterina Fake. She wrote about how social media has made us even more aware of the things we are missing out.

From JOMO and FOMO, I did think of ROMO, Risk of Missing Out.

I look at this from the knowledge worker perspective. I believe that any knowledge worker who is not active at all in social media has a huge risk of missing out…the many possibilities of the future work life, lots of learning, and an opportunity for necessary unlearning. A knowledge worker, who is not participating and collaborating in the ocean of social, will face interesting times. At least professionally, and maybe on other areas as well (as in JOMO).

We must change, adopt and adapt: the way we learn, listen, help, discuss, search, collaborate, innovate, combine, produce, and create value. For the sake of the innovation, we need to focus on knowledge flows, instead of knowledge stocks, as John Hagel wisely puts it. You might also like to read my old blog post about Systems Intelligence, by my favorite Professors Esa Saarinen and Raimo Hämäläinen. I do love their thinking.

I am not going any deeper in this right now, but please continue playing with this idea with me. I promise I will.  The value creation, innovation, knowledge work, the attitude of the professionally middle-aged, ROMO.

Can you see the connection between value creation and the social way of working? How do you feel about the idea of Risk of Missing Out, in general and especially in your work life?

Best Practices, Enterprise 2.0 and Social IT – with Passion

Let all the flowers blossom under the clouds :) Took this photo @ La Gomera, February 2012

I have a long history with many great IT Service Management (ITSM) professionals. For many years I worked in this industry and simultaneously I was an eager ‘activist’ for a global non-profit association called IT Service Management Forum (itSMF).

I have been thinking what was it that strongly drew me to towards this group of IT professionals. Afterwards it is easy to say that it was maybe my strong urge to help and to mediate. It is quite common that there is a communication gap between the IT people and the business people. It was sometimes painful to watch. The gap can be seen in the field of communication especially, but also in the way of seeing how organization should prioritize projects and how the customers should be engaged with.

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Social Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing, ready for the Social Business?

Supertramp album from 1975 – Photo by me

I recently found my old thesis, and yes, some of its topics and content are (still) relevant, as this one: the evolution of organization and work structures. The very same topic Esko Kilpi is researching. The discussion in my old thesis and Esko’s blog posts inspire me to learn more about this topic.

One chapter in my thesis starts with a quote by Michael Porter:

“Industries are profitable not because they are sexy or high tech; they are profitable only if their structures are attractive.”

Well put. Many industries and organizations are trying to score right under the constant change requiring new type of more adaptable structures. The development has been very rapid and raises increased demand for choice, chance, change and flexibility.

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Playing Social with Words

A quick post about playing with words, notions and associations, and about what I did 10 years ago – and in the end of the post I make a promise!

Years ago I was in Supply Chain Management business, and now my startup is developing a SaaS application for businesses, in a #E20 style. That is why I am very curious about Social CRM, SCM and Enterprise 2.0.

Two recent ‘good bits’ started a thought process: 1) Jacob Morgan’s tweet and 2) Seth Godin’s fantastic post.

Seth Godin wrote about “the pleasant reassurance of new words”:

“It’s a lot easier for an organization to adopt new words than it is to actually change anything. Real change is uncomfortable. If it’s not feeling that way, you’ve probably just adopted new words.”

I do agree, seen that happen.

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A job for a Silo Integrator?

Many of us have organized and managed our organizations and business operations with the help of a traditional family tree type organization chart. It feels familiar and sometimes it can be effective. An additional ‘benefit’ of it has been that the management has had a map for identification of who to blame when something has gone wrong.

I’ve personally experienced how poorly this model sometimes works: the complexity of the business environment is increasing and it’s often hard to either manage operations effectively or innovate.

Many of us also need to skip the illusion of full control. Better to get use to less unpredictable, more global, mobile and social business environment. The tough challenges lie in the areas of communication, coordination, learning, and leadership.

 

Suitably I found an old book from my home library, Stafford Beers “Diagnosing the System for Organizations”. Beer discusses the science of organizing effectively – Cybernetics. The book is written 1985 (!) but while browsing it, I was amazed how accurate its statements are. And I’ve always had an odd crush for the System Theory; yes, I’ve read my Schoderbek, Schoderbek & Kefalas!

Here’s an example of Stafford Beer’s thoughts on the organizational structure:

“…if the structure is dysfunctional, then no amount of financial wizardry, of insightful man-management, of business technique, will save the day. Increasingly, it seems to me, the organizational structures we inherited do not work.”

Stafford Beer has also coined a notion I like: “the purpose of a system is what it does”. Very simple and well put. Here’s in more detail what he said in one of his lectures:

“According to the cybernetician the purpose of a system is what it does. This is a basic dictum. It stands for bald fact, which makes a better starting point in seeking understanding than the familiar attributions of good intention, prejudices about expectations, moral judgment or sheer ignorance of circumstances.”

Seeking understanding, identifying the purpose, and reorganizing organizational structure to a more dynamic one with adaptive connectivity both internally and within the ecosystem they are part of. Indeed something for organizations to study.

However, strictly drawn boundaries between the functions, silo-like structures, are still flourishing. Lots of interesting research can be found on this topic. One of my favorites is Harold Jarche, a consultant and researcher I follow on Twitter. He wrote interestingly in his recent blog post:

“The big idea that is catching on and may take shape in 2011 is the integration of organizational support. Enough people are realizing that our compartmentalized approach to supporting work doesn’t help in a highly networked world. Why should HR, IT, Finance, Training, KM, OD, Marketing etc. be separate functions? It’s time to rid our organizations of Taylor’s ghost and I’m detecting a small groundswell of similar sentiments like radically different management.”

I could not agree more with him. The organizational structure, in general and for the support functions, needs fresh approach, a new mindset. Harold Jarche’s passion is in helping organizations re-integrate work and learning. The new mindset must integrate these two. A learning organization can adapt and adopt.

There is naturally a need for tools to support the transformation: social software. These tools support organizations in the creation of trusted relationships which are required for tacit knowledge sharing.  I’ve earlier blogged about the need of knowledge flows instead of knowledge stocks.

It is easy to find excellent thinking and analysis around social software, for example by Dion Hinchcliffe, R “Ray” Wang, Oscar Berg and rest of the people on my Enterprise 2.0 Twitter list.

I’ve had my share of ‘silo frustration’ and will eagerly continue to study this topic. What exactly should be done then? I’ll leave that to the professionals, but I do believe that on a personal level some of the key areas can be found in this diagram “Principles of being a Creativist” (which I found here):

Accordingly, my new year’s resolution is that I will do my best to follow these Creativist principles.

My open questions are:

  • In addition to the beloved System Integrators do we need Silo Integrators inside the organization? Is building the integration of organizational support a responsibility of the Top Management, Human Resources, or the infamous Somebody Else™? Do we need new roles for this kind of approach?
  • In IT Service Management sphere there’s  lots of talk about Business IT Alignment. Sure, but do we need Business to Business Alignment instead? And I think IT’s business is business.

I’d love to hear your point of view meanwhile I’m trying to learn more!