Social Business is Like Brazilian Soccer

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Corporate Structures Need to Become More Flexible and Fluid

Starting today and for the next four weeks, people from the townships of Soweto to the beach villages in Brazil to the industrial towns in Northern England to the train stations in Tokyo will be brought together for several hours at a time watching the games of the FIFA World Cup, unaware of their differences and united in the appreciation of a game.

“People from all walks of life that seem to have no relationship at all, held together by a common interest.” That is exactly how Dr. Michael Wu defines Social Communities in this article.

Still according to Dr. Wu, in a Social Network, on the other hand, “people are held together by pre-established interpersonal relationships, such as kinship, friendship, classmates, colleagues, business partners, etc”.

In real-life social environments, people move from one community to another as their interests change over time. They belong to multiple communities at the same time as every human being is multi-dimensional and has multiple interests to share with different groups.

Social communities can also be Transient because world cups come only once every 4 years and because people come together and organize themselves to respond to specific one-time events (such as the ongoing oil spill on the Gulf Coast).

When we talk about Social Business, it makes sense to map and relate current corporate organizations into social organizations.

  • In corporate structures, Functional Departments are like Corporate Networks of employees  held together by pre-established common set of skills and domain knowledge, organized in a relatively fixed and unequivocal hierarchical management structure.
  • When people from different  functional areas are brought together into a Project (say, design, develop, market and sell a specific product), they form something like a Corporate Community collaborating towards a common interest and pursuing a common goal.

In a Classical Company we organize primarily along Corporate Networks of professionals grouped by domain knowledge. By using classical planning strategies of decomposition of the mission into objectives aligned to the organizational lines, we hope to maximize efficiency by leveraging specialization and minimizing the need for inter-area collaboration to get the job done.

But, as competitive pressures increase, innovation accelerates, and information spreads faster,  companies are required to respond in real-time, the classical strategic planning process modeled after functional or managerial networks falls apart and communities become the most effective model of primary corporate organization.

Social Business seeks to make the classical corporate structures more flexible and fluid so that they can better leverage collaboration. To embrace Social Business, corporations will have to adapt their structure (less hierarchical, fluid organization charts), attitude (let information flow, empower and react in real-time), and process (more reliance on collaboration, less on linear workflows).

Embracing it is prioritizing Communities over Networks. It is a move from tactical discipline  towards real-time response. Social Business is less like German and more like Brazilian soccer.

This article was originally written for and posted at

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