Firstly though, what do I actually mean by Social Advantage?
Competitive advantage through social capital
The book is really about social capital – the value of the connections, relationships and conversations between people working in, or otherwise associated with, an organisation. The focus is internal - we should use the term relationship capital, not social capital, for the relationships spanning outside an organisation – eg to customers etc.
And because social capital is capital, not just a resource, it goes beyond simply helping achieve existing goals that much better or more easily. It actually provides a direct basis for competitive advantage – ie having the right sort of social capital enables an organisation to do new things, to set new or more stretching business goals.
And as it gets more difficult to compete through a novel strategic positioning, or a particular set of core competencies, the opportunities for social advantage are becoming more and more important.
- Social advantage depends on identifying one or more capabilities that will act as an organisation’s mojo – providing the focus for the development of the right type of connections, relationships and conversations.
- It can be developed via a broad range of activities, from effective leadership (communityship), HR and management actions, OD (organisation development) interventions and web 2.0 tools (note, despite much prevailing thinking, use of social media is not the only way to develop social capital).
- It is developed by focusing on the right connections, relationships and conversations, rather than on business results, or the particular activities that have been chosen to develop it (knowing that in the right social environment, improved business results will naturally follow).
- Social advantage can’t be driven by any one function (IT, HR, Communications etc) in isolation, but needs a broad commitment from across the organisation for it to develop.
Photo credit: Wendorf; Wlocka