Results Are A Matter of Choice

by Jay Deragon on 05/20/2013


While 79% of companies use, or are imminently planning to use, social media, and the majority of them are not using the technologies productively. The fact is that most applications of social technologies are being used to extend old business practices while the real potential gains are largely untapped and misunderstood.

The main stream media reports stories about social media primarily in terms that relates to traditional media. Traditional media models are built around sensational stories that capture mass attention so the advertisers who support those “channels can get more eyeballs.

Then there are channels that focus on business media and it wasn’t until the last few years have these channels even begun discussing the business implications of “social media”. In 2012 the most popular post on the McKinsey Quarterly Publications was about social media.  In 2009 HBR started their blog network and enlisted outside writers to address emerging business trends. In 2012 a larger percent of the HBR Blog subject matters were related to the impact of social technology on business.  The bottom line is that there are emerging clear business evidence (MIT Sloan Management Review, IBM, Stanford Business, Harvard Business Review, etc. etc.) that correlates the value social technology brings to the improvement of bottom line results.  And the evidence expands way beyond marketing.

 But Will Management Choose to Capture The Gains?

A McKinsey & Company Report on The Social Economy states “Two-thirds of this potential value lies in improving collaboration and communication within and across enterprises. The average interaction worker spends an estimated 28 percent of the workweek managing e-mail and nearly 20 percent looking for internal information or tracking down colleagues who can help with specific tasks. But when companies use social media internally, messages become content; a searchable record of knowledge can reduce, by as much as 35 percent, the time employees spend searching for company information. Additional value can be realized through faster, more efficient, more effective collaboration, both within and between enterprises.  This represents a gain of between 20 – 25 % in productivity

However realizing these gains requires a significant transformation in management practices and organization behavior.

There always has been and always will be a body of evidence that shows management ways they can improve their thinking, their practices and subsequently their results. There has also been a historical resistance to adopting new thinking and methods even when they promise improved results. One would wonder why when given such compelling evidence a rationale person won’t respond and act to make the necessary changes.   Here are the top three reasons why management will not act on capturing the gains available from use of social technology:

  1. The traditional model of management is so pervasive suggestions that the model needs to change threatens its very power structure of command and control.
  2. New approaches to management are, at least initially, pretty fragile — they require management to work in ways that are unfamiliar, they require different skills, and they need different types of knowledge. All of these attributes create insecurity in people who traditionally rely on the security of who they are reflected by the position they have achieved by the skills that got them there.
  3. Many of the problems of the old management model are so systemic and embedded in the culture that they are impossible for to really change. What happens is that any new method gets lip service without truly being adopted as a new way to think, a new method or an accepted belief system.

And we wonder why new start ups are thriving in the Social Era. Why social technology seems to be igniting a cultural revolution of open communication, transparent information, collaboration over competition and business without an organizational chart.

It is because the gains are greater than holding on to the power struggles of the past.

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