What’s the Future of #SocialBusiness?

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A #NewWaytoWork e-book by IBM asks @dhinchcliffe, @brianmoran, @chrisheuer and @CKBurgess.

futurists_ebook_collaboration_socbiz_social-businessWhether in 1816 or 2016, human beings are inherently social creatures. We depend on each other for survival and company, for recreation and collaboration, for learning and vegging out. So when we say we’ve entered the age of social business, this isn’t to say that businesses were devoid of social elements before. Rather, it’s to say that we’ve entered an era where organizations have not only embraced this fundamental human trait, but also placed it at the forefront of their brand identities.

But what does this shift to “Social” with a capital S look like, and what does it mean for the future of business? These are the kinds of questions I and futurists Dion Hinchcliffe (@dhinchcliffe), Brian Moran (@brianmoran), and Chris Heuer (@chrisheuer) tackled in IBM’s recently released e-book, Four Futurists Give Insight into What It Means to Be a Social Business. Exploring topics like what makes a social enterprise and the evolution of social collaboration, this e-book presents these insights in a straightforward Q&A format, making it not only an important read, but a quick one as well.

To learn more, you can download the e-book here. In the meantime, here are some highlights:

Collaboration Is Getting Upgraded

A common mistake when people talk about social business are its external benefits—marketing, customer service, lead generation, etc. However, as we detailed in our best-selling book The Social Employee (McGraw-Hill, 2014), some of the most exciting work being done in the social world is happening inside the organization. Enterprise social networks (ESNs), such as IBM Connections, are changing what is possible in terms of collaboration and productivity.

As Dion Hinchliffe points out, the doors opened by ESNs have led to increased profit, revenue, and customer satisfaction. Says Hinchflife, “Collaboration has come to be recognized as one of the most important business activities of all, with enterprise social networks now understood as a particularly powerful platform that can unleash more human potential than older methods.”

Brian Moran notes that these tangible business wins are at least in part due to the ESN’s ability to reduce boundaries to communication, whether physical or otherwise. “Enterprise social networks provide a platform for global, real-time collaboration,” Moran says. “What would normally take days or weeks can now take minutes or hours. The net result is a better exchange of ideas, which can bring an increase in innovation.”

Knowledge at Your Fingertips

As any organization grows, it’s faced with the problem of managing an increasing number of moving parts. It can get hard to keep track of everything that’s going on—what projects different departments are up to, what kind of data is being acquired and leveraged, and who within the organization can be tapped to help keep certain projects moving forward.

The ESN helps alleviate some of these concerns by providing a sort of digital water cooler, a place where employees from different departments—or even continents—can share information in spontaneous and creative ways. Says Chris Heuer, “It enables a level of serendipity that is just not existent in closed communication systems such as email. You never know what you might stumble across and how it may help you do your job better, or how one ‘turn of phrase’ might lead to a multi-million dollar insight that could revolutionize your business.”

You never know, indeed. And as Heuer points out, the benefits aren’t limited to the spontaneous creativity afforded by informal chatter. They also extend to the C-suite, providing executives a transparent, easily accessible platform for engaging employees on a variety of topics.

One Step at a Time

So if this is what the future of social business holds, how do organizations get there? The truth is that some organizations already have—or are at least well ahead on the social adoption curve. But as all the thought leaders in the e-book agree, adoption of social tools and processes doesn’t happen overnight—and it certainly doesn’t happen without buy-in both at the executive level and among everyday social employees.

The trick is to take things one step at a time, starting off small and continuing to engage a larger and larger percentage of employees. Focus not only on tool adoption, but on the necessary cultural and communication changes that must accompany those tools. Find your social leaders within your organization and help amplify their voices so that they continue to drive buy-in by modeling not only what makes enterprise social networks so compelling, but also what they could become.

Click here to download IBM’s Four Futurists Give Insight into What It Means to Be a Social Business.

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