In a keynote address at today’s YamJam ’12 Yammer user conference in San Francisco, Yammer Co-founder/CTO Adam Pisoni described how enterprise social tools such as Yammer can help businesses reach the goal of decentralization, which in turns open them to innovation and success in the modern business world.

J&J, Nationwide Decentralize for Customer Benefit

 Pisoni began by using HBC product manufacturer Johnson & Johnson as an example of being “one of the most innovative and dynamic companies out there,” despite having the potential hurdle of 200 distributed business units. “Their CFO William Walsh is a big believer in decentralization and asks employees to go outside their roles to find solutions to problems,” said Pisoni. He then related the story of how Johnson & Johnson solved a problem of heart stent recipients getting blood clots by having the pharmaceutical division collaborate with the medical products division to develop heart stents that already had anticlotting medication coated on them.

Pisoni also offered an anecdote regarding how insurance provider Nationwide used Yammer to help solve a customer crisis in real time. “A customer was on vacation when their RV broke down,” said Pisoni. “They called the person who sold them the policy and were told they weren't covered. The customer then called Nationwide and the representative couldn't figure out whether they were covered, but sent a viral private message via Yammer and people all over the company came together to solve the customer’s problem.”

As it turned out, the customer was covered for the incident and was even eligible to receive emergency funds. “Prior to Yammer this would have taken days to resolve, not minutes,” said Pisoni.

Engaging Your Employees

Beyond decentralization, Pisoni said true success is only possible when employees are fully engaged. But according to Pisoni, 71% of employees are not engaged. “Disengaged employees are unmotivated to help you improve your company,” he said. And while modern employee-friendly job features like flex time and free food are nice perks, they don’t create true engagement.

Engaged employees, said Pisoni, require autonomy, mastery and purpose. “Decentralization provides autonomy,” he stated. “Transparency allows mastery of work. Aligning your employees with high-level objectives rather than tasks gives them purpose.”

Chris Laping, SVP of Business Transformation and CIO of fast food chain (and Yammer client) Red Robin then took the stage to briefly discuss how his company has used enterprise social tools to help build collaboration and communication among employees. He said marketers typically respond to a consumer not understanding the message by “speaking more loudly,” when in fact the job of the marketer is to make people understand what your product or service is and how to use it.

Laping said companies should use the same type of two-step educational marketing approach internally to build employee engagement. In the case of Red Robin, Yammer allows the company to build awareness of goals and objectives through status updates, as well as create an understanding of how to reach those goals and objectives through posted instructional videos. The result is a collaborative, rather than cooperative, enterprise.

“In a collaborative enterprise, employees work together to solve problems,” Laping said. “In a cooperative enterprise, employees work together to admire problems.”

Pisoni then returned to the stage to close the keynote with advice on how attendees can start engaging their own employees. “Engage employees in a discussion of the future of your company in a town hall meeting,” he said. “Or pick a problem and have everyone try to solve it. The return will be almost incalculable.”

Editor's Note: Check out the recap of our recent tweet jam on communication and collaboration in the enterprise.