Siloed Social Conversations Impede Shared Experience

June 19, 2013

screenshot-altimetersocialbusiness-2013

The Altimeter Group’s report from earlier this year, The Evolution of Social Business: Six Stages of Social Business Transformation, offers the above graphic to exemplify the way social networking develops as the social activities of businesses mature. I tend to feel skeptical about many developmental models in social business simply because markets differ, sometimes in fundamental ways, and businesses organize accordingly. However, since a previous post here summarized the currently dominant Hub and Spoke approach as falling short as a way to organize collaboration in relation to customer experience, I feel elaborating on that point is in order.

Shared experience, not just shared information, is fundamental to the social networks underlying collaboration and innovation. Many, if not most, employees don’t only need to get to know one another through reputation systems, like who people tag as possessing expertise. As Thomas Vander Wal continues to point out, comfort with one another is needed to develop a shared experience that encourages the open sharing of information.

Collaboration means getting to know that other employees possess expertise on this or that topic, but also developing comfort with one another by sharing significant symbols relating to self, family, friends, and social activities, thereby understanding one another as people. Shared experience with co-workers and customers is a key factor in innovative business practices. It is especially important to multichannel collaboration.

Shared experience is so important because, as Karl Weick so deftly noted almost twenty years ago, it provides the basis for mutual understanding or, to put it bluntly, how we understand one another when we do things together. Nancy Dixon recently offered a concise summary of this point which I recommend reading.

I’ve noted the importance of shared experience to collaboration in several posts. Michael Sampson summarized the points I’ve tried to make as aptly as anyone in his post Get to Know Your Virtual Colleagues as People – and Good Things Happen (to Important Things Like Productivity) and his perspective is much appreciated by me. He noted:

Trust between collaborators is an important factor related to collaboration effectiveness. Spending time talking to and learning about the people you work with provides the mechanism for trust to flourish – if they are trustworthy – or diminish – if they are not worthy of your trust…It makes sense that when people experience the same thing together – creating shared history and shared memories – it binds the group together in a much deeper way than merely having the same information.

So, you might say, what does this have to do with organizational silos?

The best way to begin answering the question is to look at an interesting insight offered by Mark Fidelman and Dion Hinchliffe regarding the cross-currents enterprises face in attempts to use social software to increase collaboration. In Rethinking the Customer Journey in a Social World they noted:

…it’s the mindset of the social world, where everyone knows what everyone else is doing, and perhaps even thinking, that may very well be the hardest to adapt to and instill in our corporate culture. It’s a world where those who know how to tap into global knowledge flows in social networks on the “edge” of our businesses will succeed. Thus, we need a new vocabulary for understanding not only our businesses, but how it will deeply affect the entire experience of our customers, from beginning to end. This transformation of thinking and working is required in order to access the significant benefits of truly remaking how we engage with the market.

Their thinking seems torn between insight into where the changes for business are headed and what they think likely to happen in the short-term. Dion in particular recognizes the fact that social business requires organizational transformation when, for instance, he asserts, ” social business is first and foremost a transformation involving people and the organizations they work with.” Yet, if you consider where he thinks the in-roads for social software (including social media) are for business over the next year or so, the contrast in perspective is pretty distinct. Dion says in another post that it is in the vertical space of enterprises where most of the innovation is set to occur for social software.

While general purpose social software platforms can certainly be used in all of these areas, high impact application of social media to the way we work often requires application-specific constraints on conversations and the resultant community activity (my emphasis). This means social customer care benefits from conversations organized around support, social supply chain focused on ERP transactions, and so on, along with software that supports these applied uses.

Yammer spread out over Sharepoint sites is a good example. The enterprise use-cases of social business implementation offered by Ray Wang support Dion’s assertion. Indeed, one of the recent findings by The Community Roundtable offered in their 2013 State of Community Management report is indicative. The report observes that community managers are most often “hubs” and, further, that:

Key factors, such as the amount of cross-functional interactions and size of community teams [with external or internal focus — my point], are putting a resource strain on community managers, particularly in large organizations.

A key organizational point is worth making here because it relates directly to the burdens the hub-and-spoke model, whether  cross-functional or dandelion, places on collaboration between employees, customers, partners, and other stakeholders. Indeed, the “Tip” offered by Jeremiah Owyang of Altimeter regarding the “dandelion” hub-and spoke model is telling. He noted that,

the lines connecting the multiple hubs may be severed.  Tip: provide way for spokes to connect to each other, not just be funneled through a central group.

Just like social networks do not respect organizational boundaries, edge cases do not respect vertical (read, silo-oriented) organizational constraints on conversation. This is an important point when you consider that most of the time spent by employees involves dealing with edge cases, i.e. exceptions to core processes. I suggest that at least part of this outcome results from the fact that not enough employees in the enterprise develop shared experiences. If you agree with me, I guess we just need to think about how to make this happen. If not, then you probably need a bit more detail which, hopefully, you can spare the time for.

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Social Media, Word of Mouth, and the Cynefin Framework

April 20, 2009
cynefin
The Cynefin Framework

As noted in a previous post, the promises made by brands are increasingly judged on whether they converge with the customer experience across channels of service in organizations. The challenge is a longstanding one for all organizations. However, the increasing adoption of social media makes the challenge more pressing as word of mouth (WOM) from customers, suppliers, competitors, or others amplifies their ability to communicate their experience with your brand to others. Word of mouth communities and networks using social software are increasingly spread over regional, national, and international borders, making them much more important to those who market branded products and services, online and off.

Speaking the language of customer-centricity is not good enough. Companies must talk-the talk and walk-the-walk for brand strategy. Brand strategies are most effective when based in the design and delivery of business services themselves.  Listening to the conversations people engage online about a topic (such as your brand), and eliciting the participation of those people in the development and refinement of products and services, are two key parts of an experience design strategy. Even though you may think this is a “Duh!” insight, consider recent findings on the engagement gap.

PriceWaterhouseCooper’s 12th Annual CEO Survey recently reported that most CEOs,

…believe that data about their customers (94%), brand (91%) and employees (88%) are important or critical to long-term decision-making. However, strikingly low percentages of CEOs say they have comprehensive information in these and other critical areas that contribute to organisational agility. Just 21% have comprehensive information about the needs and references of customers and clients. Less than one third feel they have all the information they need about reputation (31%) and the views and needs of employees (30%).

Not surprisingly, the ability to anticipate customer needs is the widest gap between the information CEOs report they need to make decisions about the long-term success of their businesses, and what they currently possess. This post explores the Cynefin (pronounced cunevin) Framework as a helpful approach for thinking about the importance of dialogue with customers in efforts to bridge insight and action.

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Deep Metaphor: Exploring the Say-Mean Gap in Design Research

December 1, 2008

In recent posts I discussed different gaps, from the community gap in particular to the encompassing engagement gap. Each of those discussions attempted to size up a disparity between the attention currently given to the importance of community and social media by companies and the reality of the commitment of resources to them based on recent research in the United States and Europe.

We hear a lot of discussion these days about Web 2.0 and social media, especially on whether adoption is driven by demographics, lifestyle, or something else. Recently, while reading Marketing Metaphoria by Gerald Zaltman and Lindsay Zaltman, it struck me that regardless of the patterns of Web 2.0 and social media adoption, the applications tap into basic sensibilities for connection that we all share, regardless of age and lifestyle. As I note below, a sense of connection is an example of a deep metaphor that the Zaltmans discuss in relation to people, products, and brands.

Deep metaphors underlie the way people understand the context of problems they face in their everyday lives. Though the concept of deep metaphor was initially outlined in Lakoff and Johnson’s book Metaphors We Live By, Marketing Metaphoria takes it a step further by developing useful techniques for exploring how deep metaphors affect the perception of brands and products and, by implication, how to approach the say-mean gap in design research.

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Bringing Personas to Life in Social Media Marketing

October 22, 2008

David Armano recently made a distinction between interactive advertising and social media which he depicts in the image on the left. He noted that many companies mistake interactive advertising with social media and notes that the two differ in the place of PEOPLE in the strategy. Specifically, David points out that interactive advertising involves Human-Technology Interactions. Whereas, social media involves Human-Human Interactions enabled by technology.

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The Community Gap

July 27, 2008

Rachel Happe, over at The Social Organization, recently posted an entry titled Social Media is not Community, outlining the broad differences between what distinguishes community from the conversations characterizing social media. Rachel’s general point is that even though social media can support community development, several key traits of communities make them distinct.

They are continuous, not temporal – this is not to say that people don’t drop in and out but there is a core membership that interacts together over a long period of time.

Communities gather around a concept or common goal not around a collection of content (although content does plays a major role, it is not the impetus for the community).

Communities take on various conversations and activities, led by different members over time – it is not one conversation but many.

People within communities get to know each other and interact regularly without centralized facilitation and not necessarily in the context of what the community is discussing as a whole.

Community leaders emerge over time as they continue to take proactive roles in the community and rally other members to their causes. These leaders are community members and they self-select because of their interests – not because they are told to do so…although they can be encouraged to do so.

Rachel adds that enterprises can take advantage of two opportunities relative to social media and community. The enterprise can use social media to start conversations among their stakeholders around content, initiatives, and goals. Or, enterprises can develop communities and sustain them over time in order to impact business processes. She believes enterprises don’t yet understand what is entailed in developing communities.

The points offered in Rachel’s post are provided empirical support in the recent 2008 Tribalization of Business Studysponsored by Beeline Labs, Deloitte and the Society for New Communications Research. Read the rest of this entry »