Reframing Social Strategy

by Jay Deragon on 03/04/2013

reframingEveryone seems to be trying to fit “all things social” into strategic thinking models of the past. The problem with that approach is “all things social” are not indicative of any thinking models from the past.

The idea behind developing a business strategy is based on the determination of the basic long-term goals and objectives of an enterprise, and the adoption of courses of action and the allocation of resources necessary for carrying out these goals (Alfred D. Chandler, MIT Press 1962).  Sounds like typical ambiguous management jargon that is meaningless to the customer. Yet we see the same kind of thinking being applied by organizations chasing all things social.

The traditional approach to developing a strategy has been driven by those at the top and influenced by consultants who specialize in traditional strategic thinking and development processes. The traditional strategic development processes were based on theories and tools developed by and based on successful organizational models of the past.

A Lot of Things Have Changed

Strategic thinking has always emphasized an assessment of market needs. However the ability to listen and understand those needs has never been as profound as it is today.   Yesterday it was listening and understanding for the purpose of creating a competitive advantage. Today the filter has changed and the objective is to not only listen and understand but to build a collaborative advantage.

In an article from McKinsey Quarterly titled  The social side of strategy  Arne Gast and Michele Zanini  state:  It takes courage to bring more people and ideas into strategic direction setting. Senior executives who launch such initiatives are essentially using their positional authority to distribute power. They’re also embracing the underlying principles—transparency, radical inclusion, egalitarianism, and peer review—of the Web-based social technologies that make it possible to open up direction setting.

This approach requires a more direct, personal, and empathetic exchange than a traditional town hall meeting allows. For a mass digital dialogue to succeed, people need to express themselves openly, which may leave some participants feeling exposed. Leaders can help by demonstrating vulnerability as well—peeling off the layers of formal composure.

Social technology has fueled more changes than I could list in this post. Some of these changes are obvious while many aren’t so obvious because they carry deeper meanings to how organizations need to think about strategy.

Traditional strategy used to be about how to better serve the customer than the competition and do so profitably. Social strategy is about how organizations can expand the market by creating more value through collaboration with everyone and anyone.  Now that is a different way to think.


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