I have always enjoyed the often subtle and inherent humour embedded in an oxymoron, a term which could be described as two contradictory words that find themselves as unlikely bedfellows. Several immediately come to mind: plastic glasses, jumbo shrimp, airline food, military intelligence, civil war, pretty ugly, larger half and my all time favourite…Virgin Active. Of course applied to the corporate world and the oxymoron supply line becomes an endless stream of possibilities – just think of business ethics and strategic intuition. However, I have recently stumbled across a new one and it is one that I suspect provides a glimpse into the future, a glimpse into the new world of work. It is certainly one that we in TomorrowToday take very seriously and one that you will hear a great deal more about should you follow our thinking and chatter.
The oxymoron in question is, ‘social business’.
Social business will define the look and feel of smart companies into the future. Business is changing, as it always has done, and the new rules of the game will dictate that ‘social’ and ‘business’ become compatible at both a philosophical and practical level. The new model that is social business will be underpinned by an array of social technologies that are already beginning to radically transform how we understand and do business. This revolution is being felt both within and outside the ‘four walls’ of our businesses. Of course social technologies make a mockery of the very notion of ‘four walls’ when it comes to business structure and location!
There will be some important conversations that leaders need to have as a result of the new world of work becoming social business. Here are at least four conversations that will be needed:
Control of the conversation. Leaders have always been in control – or at least you like to think you have been! However, control of the conversation has shifted. Social technologies have radically transformed the rules of the game in this important area and any understanding of social business has to embrace this shift in reality. While it is both obvious, understandable, I suspect it is something that will be very difficult for many leaders to embrace. Old habits die-hard and the dance floor underpinning this shift, is not one that Boomer bosses feel comfortable dancing on! They will still need to dance but the music and moves have changed!
Information management. In this new world of social business, underpinned as it is by social technologies, ‘information management’ becomes an oxymoron in its own right. Information cannot be managed. Leaders will be required to develop new filters in order to cope. Managing the sheer volume and complexity of information in a connected, chattering world is simply beyond the traditional approaches that have been employed to manage information. When it comes to information: the stream has become a Tsunami.
Relationships. This aspect of business has always been acknowledged as important but it has seldom been the lead story. This will change. In the emerging Connection Economy it is about to become the lead story. This too will require a significant mindware shift for many in leadership. Social business will understand the importance of relationships being at the very core – as forming part of their DNA; but where the adjustment will be needed, is in the ‘how’ when it comes to the practice of these relationships. How people are relating has changed through the twin impact of social technologies and the arrival on the stage of a generation who know no different. The danger here is bosses who demand ‘their way’ when it comes to relating and even worse, bosses who insist that ‘their way’ of relating is the, ‘right way’. There is no ‘right way’ in this generational paradox that is being played out and the sooner we get this, the sooner we will make progress in the conversations that swirl around this topic.
New expectations. Arriving at your reception is a new generation with vastly different expectations around what it is they want from you. “What do you do for fun around here?” was a question asked of a senior Deloitte manager by a young potential recruit. It is a question that sums up a whole new mindset that is on the cusp of entering the business world. It is a generation that will see to it that social business becomes their new reality and their new world of work.
There will be other conversations that will be needed. However, these four interconnected conversations will be the springboard for the many others to follow. Social business will be the new norm. It will be dressed up in different ways, it will assume different guises and poses but the underlying shift will be the same. Look out for it and start to explore the implications for you as a leader and for that of your business. Past business shifts teach us that there will always be those who become casualties of the change; often for no other reasons than that of their own trappings of success and pride. Those are terrible reasons to fail!
Social business will be the new norm…you have been warned!