Wednesday, 22 July 2009

Gaining Social Advantage




I’ve been posting about Social Advantage for some time now.

Social Advantage expresses a combination of Social Capital and Competitive Advantage – which is what this blog is about.

I had thought about calling this blog ‘Social Advantage’ too, but couldn’t get the right url.  However, I now have it, so this blog will shortly be moving to

I still like the name ‘Competitive Society’ as an alternative description of the ‘New Social Business’ or even ‘Enterprise 2.0’, but I don’t think it would be the right title for my book.

Mind you, even ‘Social Advantage’ has other connotations:

  • ‘My social advantage’ which appears to be a rather dodgy promotion scheme.  I wouldn’t say it is / was a pyramid scheme, but other people certainly have.
  • The principle of maximum aggregate welfare - a fundamental principle of public finance. This principle states that public finance leads to economic welfare when public expenditure and taxation are carried to that point where the benefit derived from the MU (marginal utility) of expenditure is equal to the marginal disutility of sacrifice imposed by taxation. In other words, maximum social advantage or aggregate welfare is the result of two contradictory and opposite forces. One, which tries to increase it… (you get the idea).


I guess there’s always going to be some drawbacks no matter what the name!





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  • Tuesday, 21 July 2009

    HRZone: HR blogging comes of age


          My latest blogosphere bulletin is up at HR Zone.  I write about the tweeting, blogging, podcasting etc which has taken place recently at SHRM’s annual conference, and suggest that this is the first sign of HR blogging becoming a bit more mainstream.

    I hope the CIPD reacts to this and we see something similar in the UK (first signs aren’t encouraging – they haven’t responded to the question I tweeted them as yet).

    I’ll let you read the full article (free membership required) but would like to re-emphasise my final points:

    “So what are the lessons from all of this? One is about the opportunity to add value to traditional events through the use of web 2.0 and social networking technologies – and is something that applies to in-company as well as sector-based events. Just imagine if your own annual conference got this much attention within your own company!”

    “And of course, this attention is something that can be generated and sustained throughout the whole year as well. Social media may raise issues over security, productivity and potential legal problems, but it provides a great opportunity to raise engagement and productivity as well.”


    I really do think there are some great opportunities for organisations here.




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  • Monday, 13 July 2009

    HR web 2.0 applications / Resources


           I’ve been asked by a contact of mine to suggest some resources for information on companies using web 2.0 applications within HR ie for recruitment, learning, engagement etc.

    This is my short list.  Any suggestions – what have I missed?



    Bertrand Duperrin’s Notepad

    Michael Specht

    Steve Boese’s HR Technology

    Learning on the Leading Edge

    Knowledge Infusion Centre of Excellence

    Strategic HCM

    Talking HR

    Bill Kutik Radio Show

    Matt Lafata




    Sirona Says

    Recruitment 2.0

    HR Capitalist

    Fistful of Talent

    Jessica Lee Writes


    Human Capitalist

    All Abord



    New Learning Playbook

    Centre for Learning and Performance Technologies

    Clive on Learning

    Dare to Share


    Engagement / Communications / Employer branding (I've not included things like FIR that relate to broader uses for communication):


    Polly Pearson



    As well as the above blogs and podcasts, there are a few print reports that I will also suggest may be useful, for example, the latest CIPD report.  Again, any others?



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  • Sunday, 12 July 2009

    Implementing Enterprise 2.0


    Implementing Enterprise 20 The other book for which certain chapters have been made available online is Ross Dawson’s Implementing Enterprise 2.0.

    Of particular interest to me is Chapter 11 – Social Networks in the Enterprise (and for my day job: Chapter 20 – Implications for HR, but this isn’t available without payment).

    Dawson notes that:

    “Social networks, while potentially extremely valuable to organisations, are possibly the most difficult of the Enterprise 2.0 suite of tools to implement successfully. The most important challenges are behavioural, though there are also notable technological challenges.”


    In addition, there are particular challenges that need to be addressed in implementing internal social networks:

    “The best focus for initial adoption of internal social networks is specific teams or groups, within which it can be fairly easy to gain majority or significant uptake in a brief period. These groups can then help seed contacts in other groups across the firm.”


    This reminds me of some earlier posts touching on the different ways to introduce social media.

    I actually think these different approaches relate to the three levels of value in the value triangle.  I’ll post further on this shortly.




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  • Saturday, 11 July 2009

    Andrew McAfee, Enterprise 2.0


    Frs.FrsGetImage   Chapter 1 of Andrew McAfee’s new book, Enterprise 2.0: New Collaborative Tools for Your Oragnisation’s Toughest Challenges is now available at Harvard Business Press to tie in with the Enterprise 2.0 conference.

    It looks like it’s going to be a good read.

    However, I’ve never been completely comfortable with McAfree’s definition of Enterprise 2.0.  As he explains at the start of the chapter,

    “I coined the term Enterprise 2.0 to describe how these same technologies could be used on organisations’ intranets and extranets, and to convey the impact they would have on business.”


    This is what’s led to a problem which continues to be associated with E2.0: that it’s all about the technology.

    It’s not, or at least it shouldn’t be.  (Perhaps in reference to one of McAfee’s blog posts, I should say it’s not not not about the technology???)

    We need to move from a technological to a sociological perspective in our exploration of E2.0.

    Take a look at the attributes McAfee ascribes to E2.0 (posted in a recent rebuttal to Gary Hamel’s suggestions for management 2.0 – incidentally a rebuttal based on the limits of technology, rather than the opportunities of sociology):

    1. Hamel: All ideas compete on equal footing. McAfee: No ideas are above review or commentary; there are no sacred cows within the organization.
    2. Contribution counts for more than credentials. Credentials are not necessary for making contributions.
    3. Hierarchies are natural, not prescribed. Some hierarchies are allowed to form naturally.
    4. Leaders serve rather than preside. Leaders expand their toolkit by using 2.0 technologies and participating in the resulting communities. They blog, tweet, join social networks, and use 2.0 technologies to show why they’ve ascended to high positions.
    5. Tasks are chosen, not assigned.
    6. Groups are self-defining and -organizing. Just as with hierarchies, some tasks and groups are self-organizing.
    7. Resources get attracted, not allocated. This is a tough one. Current resource allocation processes are highly hierarchical. Even when initiatives arise from emergent work, they get funded officially from the top down. It’s hard to see how to effectively change this. Ideas, anyone?
    8. Power comes from sharing information, not hoarding it. One way to become powerful is to share information, refine and improve it, and/or use it to connect people with each other.
    9. Opinions compound and decisions are peer-reviewed. Decisions are subject to peer scrutiny. In other words, the crowd has the ability to weigh in on the direction the company is taking. This is very different than giving all crowd members veto power, or even a vote. Enterprise 2.0 does not mean setting up a corporate democracy (even Wikipedia is not a democracy).
    10. Users can veto most policy decisions. See #9. I think and hope that individuals will have greater voice within organizations in the future, but not greater veto power.
    11. Intrinsic rewards matter most. Companies use 2.0 tools and approaches to tap into a wider mix of motivations – both intrinsic and extrinsic. One note here: it’s important not to confuse intrinsic vs. extrinsic with small vs. big, or monetary vs. non-monetary.
    12. Hackers are heroes. Dissenters are valued as long as they do two things: justify their arguments with logic and facts (or at least lay out how to test their hypotheses), and strive to be helpful to others and productive for the organization. “Everything sucks and this place is run by morons” is the stance of a sullen adolescent, not a courageous truth-teller.


    Whatever we decide about the validity of Hamel’s or McAfee’s thinking, it is these attributes that are important, not the method an organisation uses to develop them – which could be web 2.0, or it could be something else.

    And actually I think this list is to prescribed anyway.  Some of these may be appropriate for a particular organisation and some may not.

    So it’s even more useful to think about the outcomes – what does Enterprise 2.0 produce?  And to me, it’s social capital – the basis for organisational Social Advantage.

    It’s this that is the missing link in McAfee’s analysis so far – it’ll be interesting to see whether it’s addressed in his book or not…




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  • Friday, 10 July 2009

    Enterprise 2.0 / the Kumbaya Zone


    The Kumbaya Zone  I’ve been following the Enterprise 2.0 conference in Boston.

    One of the issues that seems to have been coming through is – what is Enterprise 2.0 designed to do?

    For instance, in ‘Enterprise 2.0: Confronting Social Media's Dirty Little Secret’, Information Week’s Alexander Wolfe suggests:

    “Everyone is seeking ways (and tools) to connect people in more collaborative ways. Perhaps that's because many companies have been stripped-mined into flatness, where today's employees have to cut through layers to get stuff done, because those layers just don't exist anymore. Or maybe it's because of the geographically dispersed nature of modern workteams.”


    And in ‘Enterprise 2.0: A solution in search of a problem’, Victoria Axelrod at 21st Century Organization notes that:

    “The emphasis needs to be on the who, not the how which is where E2.0 has focused despite protestations of its proponents.”


    Michael Krigsman (quoting Jonathan Yarmis) may have expressed it best, discussing the need to avoid the Kumbaya Zone at IT project Failures on ZDNet:

    “The Kumbaya Zone is where we all sit around the campfire, singing odes to social media, and how important it is to “engage in the conversation.” If I hear that phrase one more time, I think I’ll go crazy. Instead, we need to apply social media strategies with a sound business strategy in mind. Why should I do this? Which conversations do I want to engage in?What outcomes do I hope to achieve from engaging in those conversations?”


    I’d agree – although I still think this suggests a overly heavy technology focus.  We need to begin with the business strategy – the social media strategy falls out of that.

    I’ve not been a strong supported of Enterprise 2.0 in the way it’s been defined (Andrew McAfee etc), and I’ve suggested ‘Social Business’ and ‘Competitive Society’ as alternatives.

    But I do actually like the 2.0 tag – as long as it’s applied to something ‘social’, not just something different, particularly not just slightly different.  I think this suggests a clear qualitative, not just a qualitative change.

    And I think there’s still a clear opportunity for Enterprise 2.0 to inform this transformative change.  But for this to happen, we need to put developing social capital (not technology) first.



    Picture credit: The Kumbaya Zone, ZDNet


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  • Tuesday, 7 July 2009

    Reith Lectures 2009: A New Politics of the Common Good


       Sandel’s last Reith lecture (also see my post on his first lecture) has dealt with how the government can mimick the market:

    “It’s the idea that government should try to replicate the outcomes that competitive markets would produce if all goods and resources were properly priced.”


    Sandel descrbed how trying to price goods that can’t be priced – accurately or morally – often results in dysfunctional outcomes::

    “Consider environmental policy. If air and water are “free” - that is unpriced - then companies and consumers will produce too much pollution. So government’s job is to set regulations to correct for this market failure - through cap and trade, for example, or a carbon tax.

    To do this, the policymakers have to ask how much pollution is too much. And to answer this question, they have to figure out what value to place on clean air, clean water, and the resulting health benefits. Here’s where “market-mimicking governance” comes into play. In order to make these calculations, regulators often use “cost-benefit analysis”: they place a monetary value on the benefits of clean air and water, compare them with the costs, and set regulations accordingly.”

    It sounds perfectly sensible. What’s wrong with comparing the costs and benefits of government regulation? Nothing - if by comparing costs and benefits you simply mean assessing the advantages and disadvantages of a given policy.

    But cost-benefit analysis aspires to scientific rigour. It tries to assign a monetary value to costs and benefits. It tries to mimic the market. And here’s where it goes wrong. Many of the benefits of public policy involve values that can’t be captured in monetary terms - most notably, the value of human life…

    Monetising all costs and benefits makes for a spurious science that shifts decision-making from democratic politics to technocrats.”


    As with Sandel’s first lecture, I’d make the point that these concerns apply within organisations too. There is always going to be a desire to value things like social capital – firstly, because they are so important, and secondly, as a result of the human need to manage and control (for example, as a result of the oft quoted but in my view, erroneous belief that ‘you can only manage what you can measure’).

    But I don’t think this is appropriate. And I think Sandel has nicely expressed why.


    Photo credit: AntonyB


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  • Wednesday, 1 July 2009

    Does blogging support or hinder conference attendance?


         I’ve been tracking commentary (via blogs and twitter etc) on three different conferences recently – the Social Recruiting summit at the Googleplex, Enterprise 2.0 in and SHRM annual conference in New Orleans.  All have been easy and interesting to follow, although this  is still a long way from being anything like the experience you can get from physical attendance.

    I can also image that this much social communication must add value to the attendees who are using these tools.  I have to imagine as I’ve not yet attended one where the tools are being used extensively – I usually end up being the sole person tweeting or blogging, which I still find helpful to me, and I hope others do too, but it is obviously a much more solitary experience.

    In fact, if I were to want to attend any of these conferences next year, I would probably do so in order to meet and network with these other bloggers and tweeters, rather than for anything on the formal agenda of these events.

    But am I (and probably you, as a reader of this blog) in a minority here?

    What about the non-social media user attending theses events?  (This probably applies more to the SHRM conference than the other two where most attendees are going to the conference because of their interests in social media.) 

    The good news is that heavy social media reporting is going to encourage these people to start using the tools.  (It’s encouraging that the SHRM conference post on the ‘HR Bloggers’ session, Who Are These People and Why Should I Care?, is one of the most popular, but then again this is based upon a population of people who are already reading a blog).

    The danger is I guess that even though these people are only going to see or know about a small fraction of the conversation going on on-line (blogs, tweets, SHRM Connect etc), this may be enough to make them feel part of the ‘out-crowd’, making them feel less welcome.

    Is the heavy focus on media one reason why attendance at the SHRM conference has dropped 4000 people from 2008?

    And how do we balance our need to connect and build relationships with people using these tools, while not excluding those who don’t?

    What do you think?



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