Thursday, 22 July 2010

The hyper-social organisation


    I’ve been listening to Francois Gossieaux and Ed Moran talking about their new book, The Hyper-Social Organisation (which I’ve not read as yet).  This is another of those books which made by heart skip a beat when I found out about it (“oh no, someone’s written my book!”).  But no, once again, they haven’t.

It sounds like a good book though – I like the idea of web 2.0 and human 1.0 ie that a lot of social media behaviours are triggered by our social brains.  I agree that if you want to understand what’s happening, you’re best of understanding the human 1.0 rather than the web 2.0 tools.

So you need to understand these 1.0 behaviours which seem to fly in the face of logic or you get lost in the tools.  Examples:

  • Reciprocity – people are prepared to make an investment with no expectation of a return - as a human 1.0 hard-wired reflex
  • Fairness – people will pay a price to ensure that fairness is done, ie that everyone does what they say they’re going to do
  • Emulation – our mirror neurons drive us to do the same and to look the same as other people
  • Buyology – we lie to people because we lie to ourselves to to make ourselves look good (we make up excuses for why we’ve made purchases etc)
  • Herding – we combine with and follow tribes (leading to increasing emphasis on the head of the power curve, not the long tail)
  • Status – allows us to progress and be respected within a community, but it can be stultefying too.


Hyper social organisations are those businesses which are being successful because of their use of social media.  They think differently about their business, and are doing things differently too.

These companies recognise that the human with all his (or her) socialness is coming back into business – as employees and everywhere else.  They understand that hierarchies and legal employee processes are becoming increasingly less important, and that communities crossing these vertical lines based upon passion and social factors are becoming more important.

These companies also change their business processes into social processes – things which are done by people because they want to, they have a passion for something etc.  This way of working is about using human reciprocity and social contracts to get others to help you do your job.  Just about every process (apart from Finance and Legal) is socialisable (or social mediafiedable!).

One idea if you want to become a hyper-social organisation: don’t put a firewall between your people and your company eg by forbidding people to tweet- they’ll just do it on their iphones anyway.  And anyway, two research studies have shown that people using social media are more, not less, productive.


Some thoughts

I go along with a lot of this, particularly the important of socialisation.  That’s what this blog’s about, and also my next book.

And I support some of the authors’ recommendations

  • Eg: to think about human-centricity (as in human capital management), not company-centricity.
    • Yes: companies need to become human before they can become social.
  • And also: think knowledge network, not information channel.
    • Yes: that’s a basic tenant of social media – it’s about the conversation not a communication.
  • And to an extent: think emergent messiness, not hierarchical fixed processes.
    • Partly: emergence is important, but there’s a lot of this you can plan as well (I’ve just been having a conversation about this in the comments to my last post about Enterprise 2.0 on Strategic HCM).


What I don’t like so much, or why my own book is still going to be different to (and better! than) this one is that I don’t see, once again, why all this needs to be so linked to social media.  Basically, it doesn’t.  Social media has given us one more enabler to influence these social (human 1.0) factors, but these exist in all workplaces.  2.0’s largely an irrelevance to this.

Also: I think we need to move away from descriptions of the environment.  This is where so many books go wrong.  There are just too many descriptions of ways that people in companies can think differently, and things that they can do.  Too many to have much of an impact in my view.

We need to switch the focus to outcomes – to what we’re really trying to achieve based upon our increasing understanding about the social workplace.  And this isn’t to think tribe.  Finding groups of people who have something in common based on their behaviour may be something we want to do, but only if it achieves something else.

Social Advantage anyone?



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