"The average American supermarket now carries 48,750 items, according to the Food Marketing Institute, more than five times the number in 1975. Britain's Tesco stocks 91 different shampoos, 93 varieties of toothpaste and 115 of household cleaner. Carrefour's hypermarket in the Paris suburb of Montesson, a hangar-like place filled with everything from mountain bikes to foie gras, is so vast that staff circulate on rollerblades."
"You choose," The Economist, December 16 2010.
"Where ignorance is bliss, 'tis folly to be wise." - Thomas Gray, 1742
"I always feel like...somebody's watching me." - Rockwell, 1984
This month's Scientific American contains a feature called The Story of Grand Central Station and the Taming of the Crowd. If you've ever been in a public transportation terminal at rush hour, you know that commuters expect the crowd to flow. In fact, when people disrupt flow intentionally or not, it causes issues. When a friend of mine first moved to New York, he told me how he used to stop to let people pass, which was courtesy in the south. The result was that other people had to stop moving as well, impeding flow, and making people angry. No wonder JetBlue hired a Broadway choreographer to help redesign JFK's terminal 5 - flow is critically important.
Well designed spaces facilitate better outcomes. In the case of transportation terminals, passengers move freely and avoid congestion. Within a business, employees are able to access resources easily and work more efficiently. Organizational design applies to both physical and virtual spaces.
"Successful negotiation of everyday life would seem to require people to possess insight about deficiencies in their intellectual and social skills. However, people tend to be blissfully unaware of their incompetence. This lack of awareness arises because poor performers are doubly cursed: Their lack of skill deprives them not only of the ability to produce correct responses, but also of the expertise necessary to surmise that they are not producing them. People base their perceptions of performance, in part, on their preconceived notions about their skills. Because these notions often do not correlate with objective performance, they can lead people to make judgments about their performance that have little to do with actual accomplishment.""Why People Fail to Recognize Their Own Incompetence," Current Directions in Psychological Science, 2003. via Kate Niederhoffer.
One common approach to dissecting social business into its key components is separating people, process, and technology. You can find plenty of discussion out there about technology - just read TechCrunch every day. There have been a couple of good social business books written about people, like Open Leadership and Empowered. In The Connected Company, Dave Gray has written a book that brings it all together with an engaging and lucid right-brain perspective.
Functional integration of ecosystems is emerging as the path towards maximizing value creation within our increasingly digital world. To own an industry leadership position, you need to own the experience.
The more your products and services are integrated, the more money you make by offering a superior experience, and the less your competitors will be siphoning off user eyeballs, affiliate clicks, or active users. Brands typically establish barriers to exit, such as API limits or decreased data portability, but these actions lead to walled garden status, creating vulnerability to more open, extensible services.
When planning and building your ecosystem of products and services, you need to remember this principle:
aggregate or be aggregated
This concept has roots in the portal wars of the mid-1990s. During the rise of e-commerce, comparison shopping engines like MySimon and Froogle fought for attention as one-stop product information aggregators. More recently, enterprise tool providers like Syncapse and Sprinklr have been aggregating user generated content for analysis and response.
Aggregate or be aggregated. Keep this in mind as you encounter offers to publish and syndicate your content, explore new opportunities for customers/members/users, and consider how your relationship will be monetized by the company that's helping you out.
When you step back and take note of topics that people generally focus on and engage around, patterns emerge. To get a full perspective on social business from theory to practice, it's important to subscribe/follow a cross-section of these key archetypes.
Consider this consulting question:
"If I were re-creating this company today, given what I know and the current level of technology, what would it look like?"
Sounds like a contemporary social business question, right?
It could be, but the original context predates "social business" by two decades. It's the key question from "Reengineering the Corporation," a classic business text. Its subtitle? "A Manifesto for Business Revolution."
You probably know what happened with reengineering. It quickly gained a negative reputation for being a management fad and excuse to lay off staff. Not exactly business revolution.
But no question, social business seems to ask the exact same key question of organizations today -- with an intent of corporate revolution.
Whither social business?
The title of this post is borrowed of course from the classic coming-of-age novel by S. E. Hinton. It also happens to be a great phrase to describe what's happened to Facebook.