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What a social scientiest learns about your business from social media

Listen, I'm just a farmer from Iowa - I don't want your discount ticket to see "Mama Mia!" on Broadway..This week, Clay Shirky went over the precepts and misunderstandings about social media and was suly covered by The Economist.  The principles of social media are now so well known that they will probably be a mandatory undergraduate essay soon!

I started to summarize what The Economist said Clay Shirky said (!) and found myself mashing and extending.  Very quickly, I’d move to what sophisticated social media users are doing and what social media coaches do to help people use social media better.

Following below are

  • The three misunderstandings of social media listed by The Economist, mashed up, followed by three questions we like to ask

Then I’ve rewritten the ideas as

  • Three questions I would ask you if I were helping you with your social media.

This is a first draft.  If you have any comments, I would like to hear them.

Point 1: Social media is not part of the information age!

As poet David Whyte says, “This is not the age of information . .  . this is the time of loaves and fishes. People are hungry, and one good word is bread for a thousand.”

Social media is not a call center where we ‘push’ a script, or, try to ‘steal’ information from unwitting customers.

Social media is a conversation.  We join in, in the way of all conversations, adding, extending, asking questions, never knowing where our exchange is going and preferring – all the while – not to know because surprise is delight, and delight brings us all back again!

We might eavesdrop, of course.  We can also try to dominate the conversation.  But we also have the opportunity to join the conversation, wherever it is and wherever it takes us!

  • Where is the conversation?
  • Who is coming and who is going?
  • What are they talking about and how does the conversation change as people come and go?

Point 2: Social media is not technology!

The road, the telegraph, the penny post, the telephone, the radio, the television – communication became safe, fast, cheap, shared, visual.  The intrepid, the adventurous, the business-like, the sociable, the opinionated, the entertaining– one by one, we all benefited.

The internet is one more step along this road of inclusion.  But it is different from earlier technologies in one important respect.  It self-heals. Take any one of us away, and the conversation closes over as if we were never there in the first place  The internet searches, and continues searching, until it finds the conversation it needs.

We often treat the conversations as static and fixed.  This is misdirected because it is the morph that is really interesting. What is the conversation now?  What is the conversation in a few moments?  What will the conversation be in a few moments?

Which morphs are interesting?   And what causes them?

  • How are people connected to each other?
  • What are the unspoken rules of their interaction?
  • Which external cues influence their conversation?

Point 3: Social media is not research!

Social media is, well, social, and sociable.  We are part of the conversation, and while we are in the midst of one conversation, we are taking part in others too.  We are talk to a lot of people at the same time.  We have multiple identities and many goals, all of which are important to us.

To the left, to the right, above and below, there are other conversations.  We can look only at one conversation at a time, but the edges ring the changes.

  • What other conversations are happening around our people?
  • When do these conversations command attention?
  • What morphing takes place as the edge becomes more interesting?

Social media and you

If we were working together, this is what I would want to know and the questions I would be asking

I want to know which conversations interest you

You might already be very clear about the conversations that matter to you.  And you might be central to the conversations that matter.

Social media boosts our sociology and anthropology.   Computers mean data.  Data means analysis.  Analysis means insight.

I would ask: Do our social media numbers tell us anything more about the conversation; who is part of it: and how participants come and go?

  • What do we already know and who is the curator of our knowledge?
  • What social media numbers are easily available?
  • What do our social media numbers tell us, over and above, what we knew already?

I want to know who influences the players in your industry

Who studies the players in your industry?  Do w know?  Have their been any studies on your social networks?  Or, any wider anthropological or sociological studies about who are the players and how they act together?  Do we understand how players relate to each other (or not)?  Do  we understand the external cues and events that attract their attention?  Do we have any hunches or naive theories?

  • What morphs have caught our eye and ask for explanation?
  • What information do we have about the player and what can we find easily?
  • What insights can we generate with quick and simple studies?

I want to know who influences players in your industry

It’s very likely that you already know who influences the people you work with.  They are also very sensitive whom you talk to when you are not with them.

  • What other conversations are the players having?
  • What do we know about those conversations?
  • How do changes in those conversations ripple through ours?

These are the questions I would ask you when we sit down to talk about you and your social media.

  • What conversations are happening?
  • How to the conversations change and why?
  • How are the conversations affected by other conversations?

Seemingly esoteric, I know, but these three core issues are not new.  Social media just makes it possible, practical and urgent to track them and position your business accordingly!

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Get a strategic stake for HR with social media

My social Network on Flickr, Facebook, Twitter...
Image by luc legay via Flickr

Jon Ingham is on to something good.

How can we leap-frog ahead of our competition by using social media?

How can the easy interaction between staff members, whether on the intranet or on Facebook and Twitter, build a stronger team?

How does our combined strength on Facebook and Twitter build more loyal links between us and our customers?

New IT has always give competitive edge

IT boffins have always been brilliant at looking at how a new technology allows us to put old working practices in the trash, leap-frog over our competitors, leaving them in a mad scramble to catch up.

The social nature of the two-way web gives us the opportunity to jettison old norms about social structure and leap ahead with tighter relations.

Who will win the social media race?

One of the interesting features of these revolutions is that it is usurpers who tend to use new technologies.

Barack Obama used to mobilise door-to-door canvassers and to raise money $ by $ because he was coming from behind. The Conservatives have been quicker to jump on the social media band wagon because they are trying to wrest the lead from Labour.

In business, we see Best Buy coming in to challenge big box companies with their ‘pull’ HR – work any time like a university lecturer – just get it done.

We see students playing David and successfully challenging the Goliath HSBC.

HR is taking its place with leading IT

Jon is chairing a session at the Social Media in Business conference on October 23rd. He will be surrounded by geeks who will tell you the ins-and-outs of being found on Google and managing your blogging policy.

HR is taking up the chance to be strategic

Jon is doing what I’ve always liked doing: asking how can we change the rules to give us permanent competitive edge?

How do the people, and the way we arrange them, give us and edge on our competitors? How can we take our competitors by surprise and make them chase us?

Oh what fun business is when we treat it as a race!

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Ask your Chief Social Officer 5 questions

I love a good protocol.  Today (Saturday),  Harvard Blog published 5 ways social media will challenge your business.  I’ve rewritten the list as the opportunities we should be look out for.

The list will work as a job description for your Chief Social Officer. Or, a  checklist for your Social Media Consultant.  Or, to focus the minds of employees who are dead keen to use Social Media in your business.

And if you cannot answer these questions, pick out a clutch of bright Gen Y in your company and ask them to answer them for you.

1  Where and how can we use social media tools, and where and how can we run our business much more easily (and lucratively)?

<        Tool                             Example                                                    >

<         Socially mediated linkages affecting our industry       Tools>

2  What issues might arise from social media (whether we use it deliberately or not) and how can we respond?

<          Situation                         Protocol, people & tools to respond >

3  How do our customers enjoy helping us and helping each other?

<          Example                                 Tools & resources to help them >

4  How do our employees enjoy helping us and who do we talk to away from work?

<          People we talk to                                        Resources we need >

5. When and where do we discuss the usefulness of our procedures for our business?

<          Discussions we have                     Key factors of our business >

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9 questions for strategy at the edge

Day Three at Xoozya

Before I went in to work today, I pondered the mammoth task of getting to grips with the business of Xoozya.  It’s amazing how often organizations don’t bother to explain the business they are in, leaving induction to people who may know where the loo is but have never seen the profit!  Xoozya being a self-consciously bottom-up organization will, of course, deliberately not tell me.  It is going to wait for me to ask questions!

Organize around strategy

The universe came to my rescue and McKinsey’s Buy, Sell, Keep appeared in my inbox to remind me of the principle of structuring an organization around our strategic priorities rather than our operations.

Hmm, I need to go further than this.  Being Xoozya, the priorities are not set at the ‘top’.  The people at the ‘top’, who are not necessarily the highest paid either, are there because they are good at holding the conversation, listening, and bringing together our views.  They have a knack for understanding what someone with a different professional background is saying, of detecting bottom line and top line, of seeing how people could come together for mutual benefit, and for creating organizations and communities where that can happen.

So how to begin my understanding of Xoozya?

I took the list of factors in McKinsey’s Structure-Conduct-Performance model of  industry attractiveness, turned it into a table with two columns – one for me and one for Xoozya, made some coffee, and set to work jotting down a word or two in each cell.

I quickly lost interest in my own column.  I must go back to that.

SCP model in plain language

These are the nine questions I found I badly wanted to ask my colleagues about their work.

  1. Who else does similar work to you?
  2. How do people tell your work apart from theirs?
  3. Who comes banging on your door wanting to know what you are doing?  Have more people been banging recently or less?  Have inquiries been more useful to you, or less useful to you?
  4. What does it take for someone to get into this line of work?  Once they have acquired those skills and resources, how long does it take them to get to your level?
  5. Who has the greater power? People like yourselves working in the field or the people who come banging on your door?
  6. Is there anything about the relationship with the people who come banging at the door that could change the relationship?  That is, what would lead more people to come or have more useful people come?
  7. Could you be doing more work or would you prefer to be doing less?
  8. Is there anyone or anything that holds you up?
  9. Is there anyone you could work with who could help you achieve more, more quickly?

For those interested in understanding the SCP Model more formally

Economics of demand (Qu 1-3)

Economics of supply (Qu 4)

Industry chain economics (Qu 5-6)

Cooperation vs Rivalry

Capacity utilization (Qu 7)

Forward, backward integration (Qu 8)

Alliances and Joint Ventures (Qu 9)

A good management model asks questions

Yes, there are a few questions there that will make me think about my own work.  That’s what good heuristics do.  They open up the thought processes.  Questions not answers.  That’s what management scholars deliver!

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I don’t need to see my boss to communicate

Day One at Xoozya (cont’d)

While I waited for the kind HR body to take me off to lunch, I doodled away on my nice clean notepad thinking how much organizations have changed since I first studied management.

Classical organizational structure

Eight soldiers march across the country side careful to walk in a straight line so they don’t shoot each other.  They are also spread out so that no more than one soldier is hit in a burst of machine gun fire from the opposition.

And they are limited to 8, because only four either side of their leader can hear his voice and see his hand commands.

The army makes a choice to use ‘voice and hand’ to communicate and that, amongst other factors, constrains their organizational structure.

Social media is a choice and available now

Now we have social media tools available to us to communicate, our choices have broadened.  We can communicate with people out of sight and sound.  We can communicate with more people too.

If I knew more military history, I would know more about how communication has changed warfare through the ages.  I am sure the changes were huge.  And they will be huge in business with the arrival of social media.

Well lunch calls so I will think about this more later.  I wonder what face-to-face communication is like in Xoozya.

Communication channels constrain structure

How does you organization communicate and coordinate?

Have you adopted social media?

How do the physical choices you’ve made determine your structure?

Does your structure allow you to move faster than your opposition?  What structures do they use?

Do join in

  • Blogs have comment sections for a reason.  For you to answer!
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And if you blog about Xoozya, please link back to here from the words Xoozya or Jo Jordan or flowingmotion.

Thank you for reading and do come back to here what happened at lunch.

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Recession-beating plans

What is your plan for beating the recession?

Here is a short 5 question poll for the weekend.  I’ll post the results next week!

Survey sampling


Image via Wikipedia

PS If you tick Other, and you have another 30 seconds to spare, could you leave a comment saying what you have in mind?

[polldaddy poll=1005163] [polldaddy poll=1005175] [polldaddy poll=1005188] [polldaddy poll=1005254] [polldaddy poll=1005210]

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Watch list: effectuation

The logic of entrepreneurship.  Is this a term to watch?

UPDATE 2011 (four years since my first post):  Effectuation has become a bigger deal.  It’s even in Wikipedia now.

UPDATE:  Work seems to be going on at this website. They even have a unconference of sorts in December 2009. [which website?]

The papers on this site explain well the tough concept of “Ready Fire Aim”.  From these papers, its possible to translate the concepts of positive psychology and positive organizational scholarship into business practice.

It is also possible to argue logically for a strategic approach based on the level of predictability in the environment.

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