I posted recently on the reasons why I’ve changed the name and address of this blog from Social Business to Social Advantage.
One firm that still seems to feel ‘social business’ is an apt description for an organisation that invests in social capital is Jive Software. It’s new Social Business Manifesto describes the need to lead organisations proactively into the age of the Social Business:
“The Social Business allows and rewards open conversation between colleagues... It relies on the power of social connections to shape new products and services, and to propel new revenue and earnings growth. It embraces Web 2.0 technology in the form of Social Business Software to enable this critical change.”
See the video for more explanation on this:
Although the white paper discusses the role of social capital, it doesn’t make it clear how the social business depends upon social capital. To me it is clear: a (New) Social Business is one which invests in developing social capital.
Welcome to the Social Business revolution
I really like the way that Jive positions the social business:
”The biggest change in the way businesses work in more than a decade.”
“Now, more than ever before, success depends on your ability to realize the transformative value of your people, ideas and relationships.”
I agree with Jive that the social business connects the global workforce and improves generational workforce performance. I’m less sure about empowering individual productivity. Organisational productivity yes, but there is sometimes going to be a trade-off in terms of making individual employees LESS productive (eg taking time to share knowledge with other people) to increase the productivity of the whole.
I think this is what Umair Haque is describing in his Harvard Business / Edge Economy post, the Smart Growth Manifesto (referenced in the Jive report):
“Creativity, not productivity. Uh-oh: Creativity is an economic four-letter word. Why? Because it's hard to measure, manage, and model. So economists focus on productivity instead -- and the result is dumb growth. Smart growth focuses on economic creativity - because creativity is what let us know that competition is creating new value, instead of just shifting old value around. What is economic creativity? How many new industries, markets, categories, and segments an economy can consistently create. Think China's gonna save the world? Think again: it's economically productive, but it's far from economically creative. Smart growth is creative -- not merely productive”
Social Business Software. The Application for Everyone.
I also like, in general, Jive’s explanation of the role of social business software in driving the social business, although I wouldn’t include it in the definition in the way they do (I don’t think a social business needs to embrace web 2.0):
“A class of enterprise technology that supports natural, human, peer-to-peer connections and the group contributions and conversations that are required to drive success in the future.
Social business software builds on the best principles and applications of Web 2.0. It combines the power of social networks, where individuals share ideas, criticisms and information that benefit the collective, and makes the most of emerging forms of communication, including wikis, video dispatches and blogs. Social business software is… inherently social, creating an environment where listening is a virtue and cooperation is understood. It can be applied… internally, to support teamwork that reaches across org charts and time zones to produce truly transformative results.”
“It provides a platform for capturing and sharing conversations and insights around a variety of subjects, and it can become a foundation for creating communities of interest that link companies with their customers and business partners. Yes, Social Business Software facilitates collaboration and teamwork. But it doesn’t get hung up on formalities, such as the functional roles of participants or complex workflow processes that could get in the way of sharing ideas and information quickly.”
“Across all of the strategic areas of your enterprise, Social Business Software is the most important technology investment you will make moving forward because it is the only software that truly unlocks the value of your Social Capital.”
Social capital, the new competitive advantage
However, I’m not so keen on Jive’s descriptions of social capital:
“Social Capital harnesses the value of the knowledge, relationships and interactions of people in and around your company.”
Yes, absolutely. But:
“When your best people work on your best ideas in an open, transparent, collaborative way, they create a completely new kind of asset called Social Capital.”
- I don’t think this is what it’s about. When the best people with the best ideas work together, they create an output – an impact on the business. Social capital is the input to the action – it’s what enables them to work together in this way.
“Social Capital is created when the connections between employee, partner and customers are combined with business intelligence.”
- Business intelligence is one thing than can enable the connections between employees. But then so can a nice staff restaurant.
“Social Capital is what your company gains when its best people with the best ideas can take the right actions, actions that speed all sorts of time-to-business outcomes—from reducing costs to driving new product innovation and increasing sales and marketing effectiveness.”
- It’s got to be about more than just the best people with the best ideas taking the right actions – what’s social about that?
“The faster the best ideas are translated into decisions and actions, the more Social Capital you have.”
- No, the more decisions and actions you’ll have (potentially)!
“Every time any employee walks out the door, years of Social Capital walk out of the door with him or her.”
- Sort of. Social capital can definitely deteriorate (assuming we’re not talking about a lone operator) but the employee doesn’t take it away with them (in the way they do their human capital), it simply disappears (unless it’s recreated by the people who stay).
Here’s my first attempt at a definition.
Social capital is the intangible capability that is produced by people working together with each other in an organisation. It’s development is supported by effective leadership, sound HR and management practices, organisation development, facilities management and the use of web 2.0 / social media tools.