Social Business: 2014-20-May-Measurements.jpgThe Big Shift is indeed a big shift. Driven by complexity, competitive pressure and the end of the office building as the primary location of people and activity. The shift is primarily about three things: 1. Leadership 2. The new learning-collaborative paradigm of work and 3. Relationship with external parties -- the ecosystem.

There’s a problem here, and it's not (only) one of culture or technology -- it's one of profound impedance mismatch between old and new paradigms of business. That is to say it's like taking a Firewire connector and trying to plug it into a video cable. It doesn’t work, and finding an adaptor is pretty hard.

A Few Emergent Truths 

New (2.0? Social? Connected? Digital?) business is not an iteration or evolution of business so much as a shift from a dominant paradigm of paternalistic leadership and mechanistic work ideals to a view of vision, inquiry, mentorship, orchestration and collaborative, highly iterative work.

The end point is as poorly defined as its name, and the steps from here to there are murky. There are a few emergent truths. One is that one cannot simply throw out hierarchy wholesale, replace it with a network and expect it to work. It is not just a matter of will or even faith. If that were the case, we could just say -- ok, North America -- no more fossil fuels. And voila -- we’re all running on cold fusion and driving Teslas. (Exploring the path from A (command and control to) B (shifted) is my latest endeavor at work and extracurricular-ly).

The problem is less about the strengths and weaknesses of the now or the rainbows and unicorns of the then, but rather, how does a company take rational steps into the void? How do they keep going? How do they continue to serve the boards and shareholders that currently feed them while reaching for greater ... longevity, value, resilience, relevance ... that the next paradigm promises?

Some of you will notice the key word in that paragraph -- rational. We have for the last four centuries relied on data, logic and planning. Mechanistic, rational, reductionism. In other words, we understand things by deconstructing them into their smallest, measurable parts. This is good. This is reasonable. But it may not be entirely possible in the context of massive paradigm shifts. (We could enter into a big discussion of complex systems here, but we won’t.)

So -- what impact does this have on our ability to measure ROI of social enterprise?

Back to the ROI Question

The urge and urgency to measure ROI of social media is well intentioned to serve two goals. The first is to make a business case to help sway the unswayed by making a deliberate, rational (if frequently arguable and debatable) case that investing time and money in this will pay off more than investing it in something else. Like more Google ads or one more industry conference sponsorship or a new website or delivery drones.