Open for Business
I have been looking for words and expressions that best explain the change that has taken place in society affecting the businesses I work with. I’ve been looking for methods and tools that can loosen the Gordian knot separating the social media channels from the social business. This change, which hatched from social platforms like Wikipedia, Facebook and Twitter, has yet to gain the strong foothold and relevance it needs to survive in the business world. Until now!
Starting in 2011 we took a step in the right direction – I thought. From just talking about social media, we began to talk about social enterprises, often referred to as Social Business. We took the characteristics of social media and adopted them directly to businesses. Through ingenious Facebook and Twitter like platforms, that promised to make the workforce more productive, more social, smarter, more open to sharing and more innovative, we thought we’d made them social. Thankfully it took me under a year to understand that we were wrong.
Spellbound by technology
Like many smart people in the past, I also tried to adopt a set of changes favored and driven by individuals with their own agenda, into a setting that was not ready for it, driven by executives with a focus on earnings, politics and power. Spellbound by technology, I just changed the word media with business, and was happy knowing that I had found the key that would unlock the full potential of our customers. It was such a delightful feeling.
I suppressed all the past examples where this approach hadn’t worked. The media houses are riding this hype today. So is the book industry, and will keep on doing so for a while. The music industry has been there and the banking industry is in the midst of it. I had forgotten how long the list of industries was.
A clean slate
Social media could not be translated directly into social business. It is just as naive as using Google Translate as your translation agency. We understand what it says, but the devil is in the details. Great pieces of writing require in-depth understanding of the context, audience, sender, personality and a lot of other factors which direct translation never recognize. It’s the same with businesses. You have to start over with a clean slate to succeed.
The winners started over. They thought completely outside the box. They didn’t use their old brushes. They turned everything upside down. The winners were usually armed with technology, but never blinded by it. They opened up their organizations from within. They put the employees in the spotlight, and united and strengthened the cultures that identified them. They let individuals shine, but only as part of a team. Individual incentives were replaced with common goals and rewards. Information, expertise and experience were shared internally, so that it could be best used externally. They tore down the silos and verticals. They opened up the business.
At IBM Connect 2013, held in Orlando, my revelation came. Or more specifically my confirmation that Social Business is no longer adequate. Even though IBM, which is a partner of us (Geelmuyden.Kiese), speaks a lot about Social Business, they seldom mention them together. They say “Get Social. Do Business”, simply because social business is not adequate. It does not cover the whole truth. Open Business is what I (and for that matter IBM) has worked for and talked about all the time. I had just not found the words yet. And there it was. Open businesses are the future businesses. The changes that have transpired in society have led to more openness, more transparency, more honesty and more uprightness in organizations and businesses.
The other recurring word throughout the conference was adoption. In my opinion one of the best speeches under IBM Connect was by “The Three Louie” (Louis Richardson, Luis Benitez and Luiz Suares. Technology is only one-fourth of the solution in order to be a truly open business. The other three are all about the people and their journey through the cultural project that is necessary to become a socially integrated enterprise – an Open Business.
A bothersome term
My colleague Hans-Petter wrote a compelling post on the 19th of September last year titled “Social media is an inconvenient term”, in which he revisits this much debated term. It is all about becoming more profitable, selling more, reducing costs, increasing the level of innovation, increasing visibility and reputation, reducing time to market, improving customer service to increase customer satisfaction so that customer loyalty increases. Social Business provides us some of the answer. Open Business solves the rest. From now on I will not have to use wrong words to explain something else entirely. Social media can go back to being a set of channels, and the ownership of Social Business can go back to social entrepreneurship and microfinance.
I’m open for business!