Social Business Driven by Meaning

social business

Stowe Boyd is a researcher, speaker and writer working principally on social tools and their impact on media, business and society.

Back in 2012 he told delegates at the Meaning 2012 Conference in the UK that we are entering the age of “Post-normal Business”.

For Boyd, “Postnormal Business” results from a series of fundamental shifts for business:

“’Leadership’ has changed when a decentralized group of people can take down a government. ‘The Value Chain’ has changed when the customer is no longer just the ‘buyer’ but also a co-creator. ‘Human Resources’ have changed when most of the people who create value for your organization are neither hired nor paid by you. ‘Competition’ has changed when individuals can create value through a centralized network of resources: for example, designing a product from anywhere, producing it through a 3D factory, financing it through community and distribution from anywhere to anywhere. Yet our business models have not changed to keep pace with these shifts.”

Enter social business

As his illustration above shows, social business networking will create new connections between and among the formerly isolated silos of business.

It will also let the voice of people outside the business be heard, as their opinions, needs, interests and aspirations are expressed.

New information loops will be created.

Dialogs never before imagined will happen between and among individuals who, in the past, were hierarchically separated.

We believe this emerging technological revolution presents both an opportunity and a threat to business.

On one hand it enables new levels of immediacy to the flow of information that can make a business far more knowledgable, agile, and responsive.

On the other hand, it emphasizes the need to align the organization around the same purpose, so that the new conversations, exchanges, and debates work to achieve – not unintentionally subvert – the business’s goals.

The “social business” risk is that the increased volume, immediacy and distribution of information, opinions and, quite frankly, personal agendas, could actually cause the business to stumble, rather than to be agile enough to jump over the hurdles it will encounter.

Extreme corporate control behavior has limited the degree to which many people could be “social” at work.

Now it is becoming clear that successful 21st Century businesses (which Stowe says will encounter, and need to deal with, volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity) must embrace, encourage, and enable social connections, both inside and outside their firms.

Increasingly, business is going to think its people “should” be social at work, and that customers and partners should join the party.

In light of this, the task of aligning people around what the company wants to achieve is essential.

Smart leaders will think hard about how they do this in the social era, a time in which people’s expectations about the dialog they are willing to have with business has been altered.

Those leaders who recognize the role of meaning in the social era will prevail.

They will rethink their way of talking about what needs to be done, in light of people’s desire to do work that matters.

They won’t tell people to do stuff. Instead, they will get people to buy into what should be done.

Emotive Brand is a San Francisco purpose-led branding agency

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