What's working in social business in 2012? Technology sales, marketing campaigns and the speakers circuits are doing well. Implementation and organizational change are lagging far behind.
Like the knowledge management and e-learning hype phases of the 90's and '00's respectively, social business is being led by software vendors. Some are even the same vendors that MIT's Peter Senge said co-opted the field of knowledge management. I watched as e-learning moved from hope for ubiquitous learning, to the overproduction of self-paced online courses, also known as "shovelware."
My focus on social business stems from a background in training, knowledge management, performance improvement and social learning. I have learned that the hard work comes after the software has been installed and the initial training sessions are over. Then comes the question, what do we do now?
People may say that it’s not about the technology, but that is where a large share of the budget goes in any major change initiative. The bigger change to manage however, is getting people to work transparently. One of the major benefits of using social media is increasing speed of access to knowledge. But if information is not shared, it will never be found, and knowledge will remain hidden. Transparency is a necessity for social business.
While social media enable transparency, they also lay bare a company's culture. A dysfunctional company culture does not improve with transparency, it just gets exposed. In the transparent social business, there is no place left to hide. This change alone can be enough to cause massive organizational upheaval. Transparency can be scary for anyone who owes their position to the old system.
Social business is not just about using social media but changing routines and procedures. With greater transparency, information now flows horizontally as well as vertically. New patterns and dynamics emerge from interconnected people and interlinked information flows, and these will bypass established structures and services. Work gets more democratic as it becomes visible to all.