Can Old Dogs Learn Social Business Tricks?

There is broad consensus (at least among industry observers, vendors, consultants, analysts…) that companies need to become more “social” to remain competitive in the next years.

“Social”,  in this case, mean many different things but generally is the business response to both generational behavioral changes and adoption of social technologies, including social media, with its peculiar characteristic of transferring control from corporations to customers.

More tangibly, companies will need to be more open, transparent, collaborative and less hierarchical, segmented, structured. Employees need to be empowered and in tune with the company mission and the customer perspective. Customers have more choice and voice and more influence in business directions.

Business Change is an Evolution

I’ve learned that business change is always evolutionary, but it sometimes requires revolutionary or disruptive thinking to get started. This is one of those moments. There is a visible and gap between business discourse and practice.

Assuming that the vision of Social Business is correct (I am a believer), how are changes going to unravel? Are businesses going to have the time and disposition to gradually transform themselves? Or is it going to be primarily a process of new organizations out competing and replacing old ones?

It is, of course, both. But it is very hard for established organizations to change. Culture is a result of strong leadership. Leadership is projected by people with strong convictions. Strong convictions are strong convictions.

Focus on the Puppies

So, I think the business “changes” we see coming in the next decade are going to be more of the new company replacing old companies. It will take years. But it will happen.

What does that mean to advisors and technology vendors? Is it fair to even ask companies to change? Or should companies continue to optimize and get every bit of efficiency and leverage from their current non-social business models?

I think Social Business has to start small. We need to validate the new, more social, business models before we apply them in large-scale. Change starts from the bottom up.

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