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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Thursday, 15 July 2010

Enterprise 2.0 summary


   I still need to catch up on quite a few posts from the Enterprise 2.0 conference in Boston.  I captured them live in draft but didn’t get time at or since the conference to publish.  They will out before the end of the month!

Of course, you will find commentaries on all the sessions elsewhere, but I hope you’ll value my additional insight built into the posts as well.

And I thought I’d give you a summary of some of these insights, in terms of my major overall reflections on some of the key themes and debates at the conference.


Culture and tools

There seemed to be a significant split in attendees / perspectives between a focus on on culture, and a focus on technology.  I’m not saying anyone thought culture was unimportant – that certainly wasn’t the case, but it’s about prioritisation.  Some people clearly understood that culture (the way people work together, collaborate etc) is the most important element in e 2.0.  At the other end of the scale, there was a view that we’ve reached the end of the ‘culture 2.0 crusade’.  I believe this focus is important, and suggest it does need to be on culture.

I’ve got another draft post on this which I’ll be posting here shortly as well.

And I’m proposing to speak on this subject at the next e 2.0 conference in Santa Clara in November.


Creating and adding value

A further issue was around the role of e 2.0 in bringing around changes.  The prevailing train of thinking suggested that e 2.0 technologies need to be embedded in business processes, and what people do within their jobs.  Ie that 2.0 adds value to existing processes to help them and the people performing them work effectively.  Or maybe that 2.0 can create value, ie help people and organisations do new things by applying appropriate innovations faster than elsewhere (as a solution in search of a problem).

To me, its people, and their relationships, that create value.  2.0 technologies play a role in helping them do this.  And most of what people do happens on top of and around business processes.  So if we want 2.0 to create value, to lead change, we need to extend its use beyond the workflow.  We need to focus on peoples’ working-lives rather than just work-flows.

The challenge in doing this is in getting people to do something that goes beyond their narrowly defined jobs.  But this is where the benefit lies as well.

Again, I aim to post on this in more detail.


HR and IT

E 2.0 is not an IT conference, but there were certainly more CIOs and IT Directors than there were people from any other function.  A couple of people and tweets commented on the lack of HR people.

Actually, there were about 15 of us there.  Not a huge number perhaps but the conference agenda is going to have to change to encourage more, eg less headache inducing product demos dressed up as keynotes, and just a broader agenda too – choosing between various social technologies that all do pretty much the same job isn’t to me what 2.0 needs to be about.

But HR is increasingly interested in this.  Or at least in the benefits 2.0 can provide.  To me, it’s just that IT and HR aren’t talking to each other sufficiently.

And we need HR to be part of the conversation.  I try to wear a business rather than an HR had on this blog (my HR blog is Strategic HCM).  But I can’t get away from the fact that if culture vs tools is what’s important, HR should really be the key owner and driver of 2.0 oriented (social) change.

So I’ve got another proposal in for Santa Clara to help IT understand the ping points for HR, and develop a closer conversation between the two functions (and I’d like to do one focusing in reverse for the CIPD or SHRM).


Best and emerging practices

I felt there also seemed to be growing body of opinion that we all know and share a reasonably similar view about what e 2.0 needs to involve, how best to do it etc.  We don’t (or at least I don’t – see above).

I’d like to see the conference hang back from trying to focus on ‘the solution’ and encourage more diversity in thought (I’d have liked to have seen a few more rather more divergent thinkers like Stowe Boyd and Paula Thornton on the agenda too).

Oh, and a diversity in case studies too.  I’ve already posted on EMC, Cisco, CSC and IDEO and my draft folder includes posts on AXA, IBM, Microsoft, Sony, UBM and Vanguard.  Notice any similarities?  I’d like to see the conference help push interest and usage out beyond the IT sector, even if this means focusing more on current attempts vs successful case studies (actually, I think I’d prefer this anyway).

However, I don’t think getting this diversity is likely.  We all understand enough about ‘culture 2.0’ to know that people link with (and vote for) people like themselves.

So I somehow can’t see myself presenting in Santa Clara!?


Picture credit: JoJan


Previous posts:


and on Strategic HCM:



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Friday, 2 July 2010

HCL Technologies - collaborative organisation structures


   I met up yesterday with Vineet Nayar, CEO at HCL Technologies who has just written a book, Employee First Customers Second.

Although most of the book deals with this EFCS approach (human capital management, in my language), the book does touch on the importance of social connection too.

For example, Vineet writes about the power of fusion:

“Once we transfer the ownership of our collective problems for the supposedly all-powerful CEO to the employees, people… suddenly see the company as their own enterprise.  They start thinking like entrepreneurs.  Their energy quotient leaps up.  And when that happens with a critical mass of employees (usually, 5 or 10 percent is all you need) throughout the company, it creates a kind of fusion – a coming together of the human particles in the corporate molecule that releases a massive amount of energy.”

He explains that he is also attracted by the idea of a Starfish organisation – one which is decentralised, with every major organ replicated across each arm.


Vineet’s book describes some of the activities HCLT have already been undertaking to unleash this fusion:

  • A social network called U&I that employees can use to ask questions to Vineet and has since been extended with My Problems – an opportunity for him to share his concerns with HCLT employees.
  • An updated 360 degree review system which allowed anyone to give feedback on a manager and to then see the results of that manager’s 360, replacing zones of control with spans of influence
  • Communities called Employee First Councils around health and hygiene, art, music, corporate social responsibility and dozens of other issues including business related passions such as a particular technology or a vertical domain area, which allow people to enhance their personas at work, brining the whole person, as well as the person’s families, into the culture of the company.
  • My Blueprint, another social networking system allowing managers to share plans for their specific business areas and get feedback from another 8000 HCLT managers, including people above and below them in the hierarchy.


I asked Vineet if there were any other actions HCLT is taking or has planned to further develop its peoples’ connectivity:


Stars and Spheres

Vineet described three organisation structures.

The first is the traditional pyramid with its apex at the top.  This is the sort of organisation developed armies when the Commander realised he was only 1 soldier in 500 soldiers so began enabling people down there at the bottom of the pyramid. It was also the organisation structure in the HCL Technologies organisation – they forgot that organisations needs commitment to work and created an HR organisation.

The second model is an inverted pyramid which reflects the value of work that’s undertaken. There is value in both of these two pyramids eg there’s still value in hierarchy.  You need a control structure – it’s when this assumes control over things you can't control that you get a problem).   So you put the two pyramids together and end up with a star in which a manager is accountable to their employees and the employees to the organisation.

In the third model (pictured), the organisation starts engaging every employee in the star organisation – in which employees are involved in 8 or 9 activities related to their own interests so you have these concentric circles around employees.

In the future, if we were to have this conversation again in another 5 years, Vineet suspects he will be drawing a sphere in which these communities have assumed more importance than either of the pyramids.


Social change

We talked a little about Social Advantage too.  Vineet suggested that my thinking around the value in connections, not the individual alone, but about collaboration of employees creating value, is absolutely right.

But he also suggested a need to turn theoretical idea to practical issue happening now.

For him, this is about the growth of emerging markets and therefore changes in the demographic pool of customers – becoming younger, based in emerging economies, with girls doing better than boys.  Everything is changing.

Peoples’ influence zones are changing – because of things like Facebook.  Advertising no longer influence what, how or where consumers buy.

Communities are now behind buying decisions.  It’s a very important change.  People are only just finding out how to engage communities to come and buy products.  How do you influence people to take things back into communities of value?

50% of the world are now under 25 years old.  This means we need to learn to create value through collaboration, through communities like Facebook.  In the future, this will be the only way that business will be able to grow.



Also see my post on HCLT’s employees first approach at Strategic HCM.

And you can read Vineet’s blog posts at or  You can follow him on Twitter at @vineetnayar.



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Thursday, 1 July 2010

Looking back to July 2009


   This July, I’ll be continuing to catch up on the rest of my posts from the E 2.0 conference in Boston, and I’m sure there’ll be lots more posts besides.

You may also be interested in these posts from July last year:


Or even from the year before?


Picture: Crowds gather on the ghats for the eclipse in Varanasi, India


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