Social Enterprise 2013 – The End of the Beginning!?

Recent discussions in my network show some concerns regarding the job changes of experts in the field of social business. For example Rawn Shah, ex-Social Business visionary at IBM and writer-in-residence at Forbes, posed the question: “Is social business as a field dying, or is it heading for something greater?” Willms Buhse, a well-known German Enterprise 2.0 expert, is even asking whether the phenomenon “Enterprise 2.0” is endangered by its extinction? Not in a directly related context but still on the same matter Luis Suarez, Social Business evangelist at IBM and self-named Hippie 2.0, is responding that “we are just at the beginning of it all. We are just getting started“.

So – where do we stand in regards to the transformation towards a new conception of the enterprise – the collaboratively enhanced, more adaptive and more innovative organization? In my #sbf12 interview serie last year the same Luis Suarez answered me to this question with a rather pessimistic or – as he said – realistic point of view: “People who have done social business have become assimilated.” They are not chasing the spirit of trying to change the business anymore but only support the adoption of social technologies within the company.

In some weeks ago published post about turning to a new venture long-time visionary Lee Bryant is summarizing this same situation of doing business in the social transformation field as – “we have been banging our heads against the brick walls of corporate structures, culture and politics for too long, trying to change them from the inside, network by network, node by node, when their very structures (HR, IT, Operations, Finance, Marketing) act as a barrier to change“. So the question is still here to be answered – is there anyone from the outside able to help organizations to change the way they structure and organize themselves – or is it just a question of time that the organization itself evolves into an interation of change?

Yes – I can hear the dissent of the OD (organizational development) specialists that for sure there are change and intervention methods. But the value of social interactions is something that must emerge and thus cannot be implemented by OD interventions. And furthermore a “new” corporate culture – the so-often proclaimed missing “brick” in the social business strategy – cannot be installed but also must evolve over the time. And maybe it’s now the time of the trough of disillusionment as Dion Hinchcliffe predicted for this year that the Enterprise 2.0 and Social Business community must go through.

The signs of the enlightment

But the signs of the slope of enlightment are already there. There are plenty of new projects starting off at another level with the social business challenge. One of my favorite case studies is still Continental AG where the project team around Martina Girkens is doing a great job on transforming the company towards an adaptive and self-learning organism.

For our upcoming IOM SUMMIT in September we see more and more corporations from the labour-intensive manufacturing industries being interested for this topic. So while the innovative forerunning organization are in the state of stagnation of their project advancements the late adopters are taking up speed on a much higher scale.

But certainly there is no existing company out there that can be named as best practice for a truely transformed social enterprise. And therefore I am with the statement of Andrew McAffee that Luis pointed out in his blog post: “We haven’t even seen anything yet!”

Still in the search for the how-to do the effective social transformation

As a consequence thereof we can state that the recipe for supporting and driving the social transformation has still be written. One good thought on this might be the perception of Dion Hinchcliffe: “There is no ‘one size fits all’ approach to it”. Different stages of the adoption and transformation cycle need different actions – as Dion already pointed out in this blog post in 2011.

But the successful completion of the social transformation journey is also a question of the individual and whether or not he/she is willing to cope with the difficulties and challenges of this journey in the long run. Running against the machine is in many ways frustrating and therefore certainly explains also quite some level of job changes.

In Gary Hamel’s cookbook for the future management one of the key advices for the change towards a future model of management is the “Courage to Lead”. “You can’t build a management advantage unless you have the guts to tackle problems that other are too timid or too shortsighted to take on!” At the E20 SUMMIT someone pointed out in a discussion that E20/Social Business evangelist have to perceive themselves as “brave fighters” and if this will not be rewarded by the company it is not a shame to change the company.

Therefore – as a answer to the questions brought up from my network – the answer might be: “Social Enterprise 2013/14” is the twilight of the over-hyped social business story but the dawn of the management (r)evolution.

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Bjoern Negelmann

Björn Negelmann verantwortet die inhaltliche Teile der Veranstaltungsaktivitäten von Kongress Media und ist darüber hinaus auch Kopf des an Kongress Media angeschlossenen Research-Hauses N:Sight Research. Er reflektiert seine Beobachtungen über die Entwicklung der Themen sowohl in den Corporate-Blogs von Kongress Media und N:Sight als auch in den Fachblogs (zum Enterprise 2.0 und Social Business Thema) und auf (zum Thema Social Kommunikation & Marketing). Darüber hinaus moderiert und betreut er die diversen Communities und Online-Veranstaltungen von Kongress Media wie der Enterprise 2.0-Gruppen auf XING, LinkedIn und Google+, dem regelmäßigen Experten-Hangout #e20s ExpertTalk und den diversen Twitter- und Facebook-Kanälen von Kongress Media wie @Enterprise20 und der Fanpage zum E20SUMMIT.

  1. Marc Musse says:

    I like very much your thougts. Also at Bosch there is a project “starting off at another level with the social business challenge”, here the focus is on organizational and cultural change. Look for the Bosch case study at The Bosch case was rated highly commended at the good practice competition 2013 from EFQM on New Ways of Working. The next challenge is to introduce social communities as a new working model with community manager as an accepted role in the organization.

  2. Joachim Heinz says:

    The article describes in a good summary what I also observe so far. Let me ask one thing: How long does it take to become a social business? A business that is based on trust (network!) and new behaviour (based on new structures)? My answer is: Minimum 5 years, average 10 years.
    So this is a long run and I fully understand that this topic now arrived at the hype cycle valley. From my point of view there is only one way out – a long term strategy with clear goals and full management support.

  3. Jon Ingham, Social Advantage says:

    Not sure why you think ‘the value of social interactions is something that must emerge and thus cannot be implemented by OD interventions’.
    OD is all about encouraging the organisation to be the best it can be, not imposing an externally generated solution. HR and OD is, and always has been, the best starting point for solution business.
    It’s been great seeing the small inputs of HR expertise within the Enterprise 2.0 Summit and I hope we’ll be able to develop this further in 2014…

  4. Bonnie Cheuk says:

    let’s recognise what social business platform cannot do, and recognise what leaders can do, the latter can get back to the basics and review and rethink how we communicate, relate to one another at work, and then ask: does it make sense we continue to run the business in the same way, expect employees to behave in the same way in the networked knowledge economy?

    it is great many thought leaders are beginning to challenge social enterprise / social business (see I see this as healthy debate to move us forward.

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