The value of using the social web for business is “cloudy” to say the least.
Leaders constantly ask “what is it” that allows us to create value for our shareholders, our bottom-line, our employees and our customers.
It is the way business leaders think that makes the social web cloudy because they try and fit the tangible and intangible benefits of conversations, relationships and subsequent transactions into a “box“.
Most management practices are focused on end results without a comprehension of the value attributes, many intangible, that create the results. This mindset is why many businesses cannot comprehend both the dynamics and value creation that the social web produces for its users, one to one to millions. Those very users are the people whose actions, reactions or inactions create the end results for business.
When we talk about conversations, relationships and social networks many business leaders view these topics as intangibles and as such they cannot put them in a neat “box” to analyze, measure and capture on financial statements.
Intangibles can be “cloudy” elements of a business and are generally regarded as pertaining to:
- Customer good will, employee morale, increased bureaucracy, and aesthetic appeal
- A colloquial expression for qualities in an individual or group of individuals, especially those organized in an official group (e.g. a sports team or office) which affect performance but are not readily observable. They are often cited as a reason for performance which is surprisingly better or worse than expected.
- An expenditure of time on an activity by a person (such as leveraging know-how, knowledge, collaboration, relationships, systems, and process)
Intangibles also have different meaning depending on the context: In business, intangibles are commonly referred to as intangible assets or intellectual capital. Referring to “relationships and people” as assets or capital is an attempt to categorize human value into business context. Ever wonder why many employee surveys reflect the lack of “feeling important or valuable“? Ever wonder why “customers” feel like numbers and have little sense that a business truly “cares” what they think or how they feel?
Critical Thinking is a Pre-requisite of Understanding the Social Web
Anything new requires critical thinking beyond existing references, experiences or mental models. One of the biggest challenges we have with clients is they attempt to “manage” deployment of plans to leverage the social web as if “it” were a static process that can fit neatly into a “project plan”.
The social web is a dynamic “system” of ever evolving behaviors influenced by technology and the characteristics of participation by the participants. Launching a network or a blog is not conducive to a start and end plan rather it evolves over time and the driving factor is learning as you seek to find relevant content, interactive methods and “connectivity” with an audience. Additionally, with the proliferation of networks launching each week every network has unique characteristics that influence its success and trying to “copy” what works for one doesn’t necessary insure that which you copy will work for your community.
While many self appointed “gurus proclaim best practices” the only best practices we’ve observed that works, regardless of network, is the nature and style of the conversations that create connectivity and relevance amongst network members. One other important practice is that of critical thinking by the network operators.
Critical Thinking consists of mental processes of discernment, analysis and evaluation. It includes possible processes of reflecting upon a tangible or intangible item in order to form a solid judgment that reconciles scientific evidence with common sense. Though the term “analytical thinking” may seem to convey the idea more accurately, critical thinking clearly involves synthesis, evaluation, and reconstruction of thinking, in addition to analysis. Critical thinkers gather information from all senses, verbal and/or written expressions, reflection, observation, experience and reasoning. Critical thinking cannot be put into a “box or project plan nor does it have a start and end point”.
Notice the term “reconstruction of thinking” in the definition of critical thinking. It is the intangibles that define a network which require reconstructive thinking by many of today’s business leaders. Historically businesses have had trouble with defining tangible value out of intangible issues such as “quality relationships and conversations with customers, suppliers, employees and shareholders”. However these intangibles can quickly become tangible when they go bad and the subsequent results are reflected in the financial reports. To prevent the negative tangible results organizations must comprehend and manage the intangibles.
The social web provides the means for learning to those willing to reconstruct their thinking. The value goes way beyond advertising schemes and short term revenue.
What say you?
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