Social business requires a shift in culture and structure to allow for transparency and democratization of processes. This shift does not happen overnight. It’s easy for people to get discouraged and resist change when the transformation process takes time and doesn’t come easy. Hence, social business evangelists such as Jaime Punishill of Citibank, Bob Pearson of Dell (no longer at Dell), and Bryan Rhoads of Intel emerged to help sustain the momentum and promote cultural changes required for social business. Unlike a social media or brand evangelist, this person thinks beyond the scope of marketing to how social channels and behaviors benefit the business across all functions both internally and externally.
Some refer to this position as a Chief Social Media Officer. I don’t think the social business evangelist necessarily needs a specific title, but I do believe the person to shepherd social business possesses five characteristics.
These five characteristics are in addition to excellent interpersonal skills and a passion for social media.
Passion for social media isn’t enough. The evangelist has to be passionate about the business and people associated with it. People who are passionate about the business are deeply committed to it and driven by intrinsic motivation rather than extrinsic rewards according to John Hagel.
Culture makes or breaks social business. For many large companies, social business requires a cultural shift from traditional structures (command and control, information hoarding) to shared responsibilities and transparent processes. This shift does not happen overnight because it requires a change in behavior. This also requires new types of motivations. An evangelist needs to understand and empathize with colleagues who are apt to resist change in order to know how to motivate them. If colleagues feel the evangelist has blue-sky hopes that are unrealistic for the organization, they will lose faith that the evangelist can impact real change and resume old ways of working.
According to Jaime Punishill, Director of Strategic Planning and New Channel Development at Citibank, the time it takes to evangelize social initiatives within an organization should not be underestimated. During our Social Business Summit, Jaime said he spends 25% of his time giving the same exact speech about why and how Citibank should operate as a social business. Jaime illustrates the need for an evangelist to keep pushing the vision and maintain momentum through ongoing education, especially when social initiatives lack desired results and disillusionment overcomes initial excitement.
Evangelists need a vision that gains buy-in and support from the top (C-suite) as well as the bottom (entry-level). At the end of the day, the evangelist must have the political capital to influence the right people within an organization to make change happen. This can be as simple as getting as many people as possible within the organization to participate in the socialization process. When people participate in the process, they feel more invested in the outcome, which increases the likelihood of that outcome occurring.
Many businesses are consumed by debates over who owns what piece of the social strategy, especially during a time when resources are scarce. The evangelist should be able to rise above and maneuver corporate politics without getting tangled by them. This means the evangelist is best positioned when he or she can operate independently of a specific department or group. Obviously, this isn’t possible with an evangelist who emerges (versus hired). To be effective, the evangelist must be aware of competing agendas and demands and find a compromise that will maximize benefits for the whole.
Does your business have a social business evangelist? Are there additional characteristics you would add to this list?
Have you ever gone out of your way to eat at a restaurant just so you could regain your mayorship on Foursquare? A little bit of friendly competition can be a powerful way to change behavior. There is a corollary in the enterprise, and it goes far beyond location. Making the transformation to a social business is going to require new technology, and changes in process and culture. Recently I met with the leadership team from a Houston-based company named ChaiOne who is tackling this opportunity.
While Foursquare is an individual competition, Tribes puts people into teams to accomplish quests and earn rewards for business outcomes like completing an e-learning course, or submitting your time report. You and your tribe grow experience points by doing things like sharing knowledge. Each Tribe has a leader, and members can even switch tribes if they have the permission of both Tribe leaders. If you are into such topics as game theory, social psychology, and game mechanics you will understand how this goes far beyond the simple mayorship or a completion badge.
When there’s an impetus and/or incentives that make people want to contribute, participate, and collaborate in achieving goals, your organizational culture fundamentally changes.
The recurring theme heard in every organization’s journey into becoming more social, is how to change the company culture to lose its command and control attitude, organize itself more like a network, be more collaborative, and to stop hoarding and start sharing information.
What better way to change behavior than to introduce elements of gaming and competitiveness? Think of the Foursquare leaderboard. Everybody wants to see their name in the Top 10. What if your Tribe is depending upon you to complete a task for success? Peer pressure is also a powerful motivator. You might just find that people are turning in their expense reports on time for a change, completing that online e-learning program that they’ve been neglecting, or finishing quarterly reviews of their staff.
In Kate Niederhoffer’s talk at the Social Business Summit in Austin, she referred to a study in social psychology by Elliot Aronson in 1992 that showed that you could change someone’s behavior if they were made aware of an issue, and made a commitment to change their behavior. Not changing creates a hypocrisy condition that introduces an uncomfortable level of cognitive dissonance. One way to make people mindful of a desired behavior is to make a commitment to the rest of their Tribe, and to be on a continual quest to earn badges and points for desired business outcomes.
An example of this might be an employee who you would like to attain a Project Management Professional (PMP) certification status. Rather than just another task, this could become a quest in which the employee is made aware of the benefits of the PMP course knowledge, and makes a commitment to their Tribe to complete the quest. Having the quest badge uncompleted on their intranet page for all their Tribemates to see creates constant mindfulness of the task. Someone in a mentor role could also assign points or other benefits for using PMP principals on-the-job.
Applications like Foursquare and Gowalla are in their infancy, but it is this type of technology, attention to culture and behavior change, combined with support for processes that will help organizations become more socially calibrated.
The way that we work, interact, and reward people in the enterprise of tomorrow will be very different. How likely is your organization to adopt similar concepts?
A couple of days ago, I attended the presentation of Charles Leadbeater’s “Cloud Culture: the future of global cultural relations” at the Institute of Contemporary Arts in London (video excerpts here) and I have to say that it was one of the more interesting debates I followed in the past couple of months.
The Cloud Culture pamphlet discusses the fact that with the ubiquity of the Internet, we see more and more of our data (and life?) moving to the “cloud”. Think about our music, our documents, our private profile data, our pictures, our books, etc. This is a very interesting evolution to see but Charles argues that there is a potential threat here as well: who will own that cloud? Or differently said, will the cloud enabling companies “turn evil” one day?
I’d like to invite you to a 2-minute interview where he summarises his thesis:
While Charlie mainly focused on the cloud (which actually refers more to the Internet/WWW revolution, rather than the technical delivery model), I argue that this debate is applicable to a far broader domain.
Institutions fighting for self-preservation
Somehow the whole discussion that evening vaguely reminded me a bit of one of the statements in Clay Shirky’s excellent book “Here comes everybody“. Already back in 2005, Clay argued that often the first goal of established institutions is self-preservation, whilst the initial stated goal of that institution suddenly becomes a secondary priority.
When you loosely link that to my earlier blog post “Do you want to succeed or survive?” where I challenge certain decades-old business models that are in danger of becoming obsolete, one can only wonder whether the “fear” towards the cloud is also a fight for self-preservation?
Could it be that the fight between book authors and book publishers on the one hand and Google’s Book project on the other hand, is a fight for self-preservation of the book industry? Or can we take this broader and say that it’s between mankind’s fight for its heritage and culture versus “cloud capital” or “commercial cloud”?
There is a big fear amongst many people that Google’s Book project (but the problem is far more broadly than only this particular project) means that one commercial company is basically going to own, dominate and regulate access to mankind’s books. The fear is that one day Google will charge everyone that wants to access their library and that they can do whatever they want with that.
“Weird, or just different?”
Before you continue reading, I’d like you to watch this funny but very eye-opening 2-minute video on TED. Why? Because I want you to be very open minded for what’s coming and Derek Sivers kind of made his point that opposite opinions or views might be right as well.
So, to get back to the discussion of the Google Books project. What if I’d say that there is a chance that Google has done far more to preserve and promote mankind’s culture and heritage than a lot of governments on this planet? Isn’t Google kind of saving our culture by digitizing every book on earth? Isn’t Google opening up and giving access to special and rare books so that you and me (that are not part of some sort of elite academia) can read them as well?
Even more, because they are driven by commercial interest, they will probably execute this project in a far more efficient way (resource/time/money-wise) than any government on this planet. The French government has announced that they want to keep the French books in France and thus going to start their own book digitization project. Well, I only fear how much money this will cost for the French taxpayer. Especially, given the fact that they are basically duplicating Google’s work.
The whole point I’m trying to make here, and I’m very grateful for Charlie to have bootstrapped the debate, is that technological inventions have a big impact on our society. This applies for the Internet, for cloud computing, cellphones, social media and many others and that they provide both a big opportunity but also a potential danger.
However, whether it is an opportunity or a danger that depends on how you look at it. We’ve seen many cases where for instance the Internet has disrupted (and destroyed?) whole industries. Executives that were used to run a business for 20-30 years, all of a sudden found out that their tried and tested methods don’t work anymore.
So if you are an old-skool music executive you will probably see the Internet as a big danger, but some young artists and record labels have already embraced the Internet and regard it as an opportunity to get more easy and cheaper access to the market.
But let’s be honest, how much different is this than for instance the switch from coal to oil? The switch from horses to cars? The switch from cruise boats to planes? Our whole history is full with examples where one innovation destroyed a whole industry, well this is exactly the same thing here with the Internet and the cloud. Whether we want or not, it is happening.
Government as regulator and enabler instead of solutions provider
But how do we deal with the dangers (if there are any?). How do we ensure that Google does not “become evil” as many fear?
Well, rather than the government being a solutions provider (as the French government that wants to spend loads of tax money on the book project), I’d like to see them more as a regulator and solutions enabler.
I’m quite liberal, but I am realistic enough that the whole invisible hand theory is rather a textbook theory than the ideal market philosophy so yes there is a role for the government here.
It should be a watchdog to the industry to assure that companies don’t become evil. It should supply research grants to these companies and force them to develop open (industry) standards. And yes, if the industry would become evil one day, then I don’t have a problem with the government stepping in and take measures.
And as my final thought: how bad is it actually if Google would charge us for instance 25 Pounds, Dollars or Euro per year for accessing their library? Don’t you think that we’d pay per person far more tax money to have a government project with the similar size and reach?
Just think about it: every opportunity can be seen as a danger, and vice versa.
My thanks to Charles Leadbeater, the Counterpoint think tank and the British Council for enabling this much necessary debate!