In working recently on the topic of leadership and decision making processes in social environments, I thought I'd clarify something per my book. Quite often I see these decision-making methods split into simple categories--centralized versus marketplace (or distributed)--
when there is so much more. Additionally, the way how people work to produce results is not the same as who is involved in making the decisions.
One milling question from those who’ve looked closely
at my book, Social Networking for Business, is that leadership and decision-making processes seem to appear in two
different areas: the chapter 3 “Leadership in Social environments” and then
later again in the section “Describing the Form of Aggregation” in Chapter 4 on
Social Tasks. I should explain the key differences here.
Chapter 3 focuses on six different common leadership models:
Centralized, Centralized w/ Input, Delegated, Representative, Starfish and
Swarm. These models focus on whois allowed to participate
in the decision making process, set direction for the social group, and select
leaders. These range from those with very strongly centered to very distributed
The Aggregation methods on the other hand describe how
these decisions are made or this work executed: Independent,
Autonomous, Consensus, Deliberative, and Combative. These again are
alternatives to each other to create results.
Independent—Members work on the task separately, but the results are aggregated across all members
Autonomous—Members work on the task separately of each other, and their results are distinctly visible to other members as separate work.
Consensus—A group of members works directly together on the task with the intent to deliver an overall collective result, even if it’s not unanimous or convergent.
Deliberative—A group of members works directly together without the intent or necessity of coming to a consensus on a single result.
Combative—Members must compete against each other to derive the best result from the group, denying other choices.
Certain pairs are more likely to occur: e.g., a swarm is
likely to use the Independent aggregation where only the combined results (voting)
across many members result in a single value. A delegated model is likely to
have autonomous decisions spread across the different domains delegated across
The moral here:
Set the right expectations -- Be clear not only about who
can make the decisions, but also for those who can do so, how they can make
For folks who’ve asked me about social computing and the
retail industry, I’d like to describe ideas in use. Some of you may already be
familiar with these.
First of all, there’s the “w00t” idea, most common in the US
as the site www.woot.com and even featured
in campaigns with American Express and others. It’s fairly simple, every day
they list a limited quantity of a single product (at seemingly random) at a
good deal of discount. Its success depends on mixing in very popular items with
some of the ordinary ones at many different price points, spread across a wide
range of product categories.
The social element here is in competition to get
one which often heats up considerable. Folks have even created bots or software
applications to beat others to the purchase. To spur this competition on, there
is constantly updated “sales snapshots” of the purchase experience for that
item: a map of the US where it’s being purchased the most, sales per hour, the
number of times the purchaser has bought from the site before, how many the
bought, etc. Finally, the discussion thread often gives social input or
feedback to what others think of the product. Other companies have tried this,
for example, I recall seeing it on American Express shopping as Deal of the Day
where they had a Honda Civic Hybrid as the deal for almost 60% of the sale
The key element is the competition, limited quantity and
thus exclusivity of the items of the site. All the social input exists to feed
the competitive basis unlike other online retail sites, where this is not at
all emphasized. Rather they take the stance that there is always some quantity
available. However, the competitive element of woot combined with a surprise in
random but in-demand items, is what turns the social elements into a game-like
structure, and most importantly: bring people back to the site. This method
isn’t new by any means, but the online environment makes it easier to spread
the word and increase the likelihood of sales. The social experience model here
is a mass collaboration with swarm leadership and combative aggregation. (if
this doesn’t make sense to you, please read my book).
Unconfirmed, but did the jargon term “w00t” originate from
“iwoot” = “I want one of those”? See http://www.iwantoneofthose.comwhich is not this above model, and closer to what
is now “traditional” online retail, purchasing with ratings and comments. Or is
it a derivative, if I remember right, of the “woof, woof” sound made popular
back in the 1990s by the Arsenio Hall show.
is another form of social computing applied to coupons for services within your
city (again mostly in the US). Essentially, it takes the woot model to a new
level, requiring people to invite enough members to qualify for the coupon. The
time limit is again one day only, and it is specific to a city. So, if a user
really likes the coupon promotion, they may need to try to get their friends or
others of like interest to also vote for the promotion, or just wait to see if enough
people from their city vote, before they can even take advantage of it.
Here, the social experience is not entirely a mass
collaboration like woot, because people do not necessarily work entirely
independent of each other. It allows two choices: you can bring your friends as
a small community to vote and get the coupon, or you can vote and hope that
others join in. In other words, it’s a hybrid of a mass collaboration and a
community. The leadership effects are also swarm-like, with no single person in
charge and each person making their own choices (typically to vote positively
for the item). However, this is not combative but consensus aggregation.
The book has progressed and transformed significantly over the past year. I've probably rewritten the contents three to four times already, either shifting large sections to bring related ideas together, towards a business focus (requiring less prior technical knowledge), and in a more cohesive concept.
The draft chapters all go up onto the Roughcuts section of Safari Books. What's confusing is that the latest information is in there but only to registered members, and the free information you see up front is several drafts old. So, I'm including the ToC here:
I noticed Hutch Carpenter's (@bhc3) post about this proposed session in Enterprise 2.0 conference where he's talking about different forms of competition. I had to share this excerpt from chapter 4 on Social Tasks of my book on the different forms of working together on a social/collaborative task.
The next step of defining a social task is to consider how members
perform this task collectively. Social software aggregates the behavior or
content from many individuals into overall results or collections of results.
However, you can use different methods to perform aggregation:
- Independent:Members work on the task separately, but the
results are aggregated across all members. Their discrete actions and results
might not be directly visible to others:the results are visible only as an converged aggregate value (for
example, closed ballot voting).
- Autonomous:Members work on the task separately of each
other, and their results are distinctly visible to other members as separate
work. This creates opportunities in which members might benefit from
information that multiple other members share. A collection of divergent results
across the many members or a single convergent result (such as brainstorming on
ideas) can occur.
- Consensus:A group of members works directly together on
the task with the intent to deliver an overall collective result, even
if it’s not unanimous or convergent. Tasks often require analysis, discussion,
and debate to arrive at a collective answer. The ultimate goal is to converge
and deliver a single collective result, but members might not always agree on
one answer and there sometimes produce multiple options as results.
- Deliberative:A group of members works directly together
without the intent or necessity of coming to a consensus on a single result.
These are typically discussions or interactions that can spread out in many
directions, depending on how subsets of members interact.
- Combative:Members must compete against each other to
derive the best result from the group, denying other choices.[i] Unlike consensus forming,
only a single answer is provided from all the choices the group generated.
Glass, Designing Your Reputation System in 10! Easy Steps, IA Summit
2008, Miami, Florida
A discussion on community manager or builder's skills on Twitter incited me to post this list below. The following are various personality traits, behaviors and skills to look for in a Community manager or builder, straight out of my new book, Social Networking for Business (Wharton School Press 2010):
-Listening:A large part of a community manager’s
role is being responsive to the members of the social group, noting their
issues and tone, and having the patience and willingness to put things aside to
pay careful attention to issues and problems.
-Talking:Writing or talking about their experiences,
ideas, events, or other insight in a natural or casual tone helps users get to
know the CMs better. This is not about marketing or making sales pitches, nor
is it an extensive academic or official report.
-Taking notes:Good community managers are always
taking notes, literally or mentally, and saving or organizing them in a
retrievable fashion. In a conversation, they are listening carefully and taking
notes on the key points the other person is trying to make. If CMs need to
write something down, they can ask users for permission to take notes. With
problem issues, CMs might perform the physical act of note taking, either with
pen and paper or through tagging and writing online; mental notes often get
lost or forgotten. The notes saved are helpful in other activities.
relationships:Listening and talking sets
a frame to build relationships with members. This is not just remembering the
names of members, but also paying careful attention to their motivations,
interests, activities, relationships, and other facets of their lives.
remote or virtual interactions:Being
comfortable working in an environment in which you might never physically meet
the users you work with is important. Online environments frequently do not require
a physical office location, giving community managers the freedom to work from
home or other venues. This also means having the responsibility to actually
perform work in such a remote environment and to avoid distractions. However,
this is not exclusive; knowing how to interact with members you have never met
in face-to-face situations is also useful.
members:A good community manager’s personality
engages and energizes the people he or she talks to. These community managers
like to shine the light on others’ activities and bring awareness to such
activities they consider significant.
-Mediating:Within any social group, some degree
of debate or argument eventually will arise. Community managers can play a role
in mediating or arbitrating when things get rough. They don’t need to be the
ones to find every solution:it’s better
if the parties come up with a proposed solution:but they need to be open and seen as neutral.
-Voicing for the membership:Community managers might need to negotiate
with other parties:whether competing
for attention in the same organization or working with other sites, events, or
groups:to bring attention to their own
community or members. Community managers should be able to act as a voice for
the overall group to the sponsoring organization or to other groups.
-Finding a way:CMs must handle a variety of issues—some
I see occurring repeatedly, and others are fairly unique. Community managers
need to have a drive to find a way to solve problems. This means persistence,
intelligence, creativity, social awareness, and more. No template exists for
this role—it requires an instinctual nature of wanting to help people.
I should be getting some early copies of my new book, Social Networking for Business
(Wharton School Press, 2010) straight from the printer/binder just
before Lotusphere. I'm planning on bringing some to hand out at the
event either during lunch--our BlueIQ Social Software Adoption team
will be hosting two tables with signs, so come by and talk to us. We'll
be chatting on just about anything around adoption, how we do it in
IBM, and what you can do with social computing.
If you haven't seen it yet, it is available at, Amazon, Barnes&Nobles or other booksellers around the 24-29th this month. Kindle versions should be out a few days earlier.
The core competency here is in terms of facilitating relationships and communications between different parties. There are in fact many different types of interactions that this role takes on. In as such, this means they participate as a part of many different role-interaction patterns. This is significant since when such patterns are frequent and repeated, it becomes almost transactional, and therefore measurable. If you need the example of a more common role-interaction pattern: think of a support call from initial contact to completion after a solution or resolution has been reached and the customer is verified as satisfied. Each such complete interaction has a measurable value; or you could also measure it in terms of cost or time it took to conduct that interaction end-to-end. Finally, you could also measure it in terms of quantity of those interactions actually reaching completion rather than partial or incomplete resolutions (likely meaning an unhappy customer left hanging).
The RI patterns for Community managers are of a different sort but the following tables give some suggestions of the kinds of patterns they could participate in.
Table 9.1 -- The Value of Community Managers
Improving relationships with members by providing a human face
to an organization or a large social group
Bringing the value of their own relationships and contact
networks within the organization
Arbitrating conflicts between members, or between the member and the
Coordinating member projects and activities
Serving as a repository of situational knowledge about the
organization, the members, or the content
To the sponsoring organization
Serving as an organizational spokesperson to the membership
Providing a view into the climate
of the members about the topic or purpose (the business climate within the
enterprise, across business partners, or across the industry)
Housing a repository of situational
knowledge about members, the content, or the topic
Encouraging and monitoring
member involvement and participation in the topics that
interest the sponsor
members might have with the organization
describing value or outcomes of the social group
and potential for hires or rehires
Table 9.2 Supporting Customers or Partners
Customers or business partners (public-facing, cross-boundary, third-party)
Marketing or sales
Increasing the number of touches with customers
Identifying customer evangelists and activists
Discovering industry trends and customer interests
Acting as marketing
liaisons to customers
Guiding marketing on
appropriate messaging or tactics
Product development and delivery
Assisting in gathering product requirements from audience
Conducting market research with customers
Identifying competitor activity or offerings
Conducting design tests and product beta-testing
Delivering products to customers online
Customer relations or product support
Providing a human
interface to the organization or social group
Serving as a “finger on the pulse” of audience concerns
Helping partners locate internal representatives or departments
Helping customers find appropriate support resources
Identifying troubled or
There's another table on their roles within the enterprise supporting employee and organizational interactions.