Thursday, 24 March 2011

Social Business Summit: John Hagel on Cascading Change


  I’m at Dachis’ London Social Business Summit today.  I’ve just seen JP Rangaswami taling about social but couldn’t get on the wifi to post.  But up now is John Hagel talking about two elements of his big shift (from the Power of Pull).


1.   Moving from diminishing to increasing returns

So it used to be the longer you worked on something, the longer you’d have to wait for the next increment.  Now, the more you work on something, the more rapidly something improves.


2.   Moving from stocks to flow

The source of value used to be stocks of proprietary knowledge that you’d keep secret and leverage over a long a period as possible.  But now, knowledge stocks depreciate at an ever fast rate.  To create value in this new work, we need to participate in an ever broader flow of knowledge at an accelerating rate.  Hence the value of social software.


The best way to take advantage of these trends is through small moves that trigger accelerating moves over time.  This can be through:

  • Bottom-up adoption often within teams to support their activities
  • Top down driven change driven by an executive coming back from a conference
  • A massive deployment of social software for everyone.


One difficult with all of these is that metrics are hard to come from – in fact in most of Hagel’s studies, there’s been no impact.  We need metrics that matter – which will differ according to the part of the business you’re in, eg financial metrics for CXOs, operational metrics for lower business leaders and performance metrics (in someone’s job) for people on the front-line.

The target at all these levels is better exception handling which takes 60-70% of management time in most organisations (?).

[This links with JP’s points on the move from the Industrial Age in which work comes in linear flow and we could predict what flow is coming through the pipe based on linear constructs and build processes around these (although they were never as repeatable as we thought).  Knowledge workers have lumpy work – peaks and troughs.  We need to understand pattern rather than process to deal with exceptions which are taking over from the previous age.  JP think this new non-linear vs linear approach is a bit like a video game.]

This sort of change pulls people to the edge rather than the core – the place where social technology can have the best early impact.  It’s not just a technology, it’s an organisational change catalyst – everything will change based upon the implementation of social software.

This applies to all businesses eg bus workers have taken to social software very rapidly because of the problems they’ve been having.


Comment: yes, but given the extent of change, why start with social software and the changes this will introduce?  My advice is to start with the change you want to create.

Also see my post on the different opportunities for introducing social tools: 3 modes of web 2.0 implementation.



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  1. Great (and fast!) post Jon. I am reading #PowerofPull now and thrilled to see Jeff Dachis tweet back resonating on a key theme in the book, "shaping serendipity" See from my

    I think this is a key point for businesses: imagine the benefits if serendipity could be "shaped" within companies for their success!

    Cheers Jon

  2. Thanks for you post, Jon. I don't get your comment though. I think your comment is in line with what Hagel said. He says: social tools is not enough. When you start to use them, start slowly and consider using social tools in organization can have huge effects on the long run, but usually don't on the short term.

  3. Samuel, he's still starting with the social tools though (at least in this presentation). In fact the whole conference, and Dachis' whole approach, fall into the same trap. They all understand the use of social tools need to be combined with other enablers. But the all focus on using these to enable the social tools. To me, it's just the wrong starting point and focus.

    Tony, yes, I agree, although the opportunities for managing weak ties still only part of the full picture. People, and their organisations, need to focus much more on developing the right connections, relationships and conversations.

    Doing this might require social tools, and it might not. That's the point I was trying to make, and I don't think it's the same as what Hagel said.


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