Tag Archives: Social Business

I learned something from art today

In the gym this morning, I watched Silvia Beck’s documentary “Michael Nyman – Composer in Progress“. This fascinating portrait not only distracted me from the fact that I was exhausting myself in monotonous exercise, but thrilled me so much that I jotted down some notes for this blog entry right after my workout. The documentary made me think about art and movies – and how they connect with the work and passion I put into Social Business (aka Enterprise 2.0).

Michal Nyman is a multifaceted artist: composer, conductor, pianist, author, music theorist, photographer and film maker. His name may not sound familiar, but probably some of his music does. He composed the compelling soundtrack for Oscar-winning masterpiece “The Piano” (the album became a bestseller in its own right) and for several films directed by Peter Greenaway (inlcuding Prospero’s Books which I like a lot).

I was very surprised to learn that Nyman wrote the music for “The Piano” without watching a single scene from the film. “I do not want to decorate a movie, but add something that could stand for its own”, says the composer . This view is supported by director Volker Schlöndorff who recounts that Nyman’s music for “The Ogre” makes some hidden aspects of the movie’s story perceivable (e. g. the main character’s hubris or the hidden dissent in the castle). Schlöndorff adds: “Michael Nyman is a great composer for a director, maybe not for the producer”.

So how does this connect to Social Business? In my job, I strive to conduct a mass movement, but I also need to cater for the director and the producer. A lot of blog posts and publications I recently saw on Social Business were geared towards the producers – the guys who provide the funding for our activities and want to see a solid return on investment. And don’t get me wrong: Social Business must deliver business value. However, as “raison d’être”, contributing to a company’s financial performance would not be enough.

Think of the movies: They are financed because the producers hope to make a profit. But they are made because the director, the screenwriter, the actors, the composer, etc. want to create something that is connected to an idea larger than itself and that touches people’s heart and soul. This may not be true for every movie you have ever watched, but certainly for those that you feel passionate about.

A few years ago, my husband and I met Glenn Cotter. He is a digital artist and has contributed visual effects to numerous movies – many of them blockbusters like “The last Samurai” or “The Avengers”. When we asked him about his work, he described how he made scenes shot in contemporary locations turn into something that looks like decades or centuries ago (at least that’s what he did in 2003). We could feel that this complex artwork is a labor of love, and that for him it’s not primarily about the economic performance of a movie, but more about the idea and the beauty of the piece of art he helps to create. His filmography shows that this approach does not keep the movies from becoming very successful.

When I think of the people I know who work as Social Business evangelists – we are all striving for creating business success, but what really drives us is the passion to create something. In our case, it’s not a movie, but a better way of communicating and collaborating. And those colleagues who become Social Business pioneers in our companies are usually not the number-crunchers, but the playful free spirits who understand the beauty of the concept.

How can we move Social Business to mainstream without catering to the producers only? I believe that a singular focus on value creation would result in a utilitarian approach that might convince people’s minds, but will not win their hearts and or touch their souls. And all three are necessary to make Social Business a sustainable success.

Therefore I think we need a balanced approach. We need to cater for the producers (who want to have an ROI, now), for the directors (who see the big picture of the company’s future), and for a broad and diverse audience.  The artists behind inspiring movies can show us  how to achieve this balance: We need to combine extraordinary skills, a sound understanding of value drivers, a passion for creating, an imagination that sees the future beauty in what’s just emerging, and the firm belief that we are doing the right thing at the right time.

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To reach mainstream, we need to talk mainstream

As a communications professional, I’m intrigued by the ongoing discussion on “Enterprise 2.0” versus “Social Business”. The battlegrounds in this  war of words are Twitter, the blogosphere, and more recently the  2.0 Adoption Council and Quora.

When I first came across the discussion last year (while following tweets from the Enterprise 2.0 – sic! – Conference in Santa Clara), I immediately took the side of Enterprise 2.0. That’s because I am very familiar with the existing definition of Social Business by Mohammad Yunus. At the moment this definition is still the only one published in Wikipedia – although there were discussions to include the new one.

From a communications point of view, it’s a bad idea to use the label of phenomonon A to also describe phenomenon B – especially if those two can appear in a similar context. However, it’s not unheard of. All languages I know are full of homonyms.

After a closer look into the discussions, I realized that familiarity with the “traditional” meaning of social business is not as ubiqitous as I thought. Maybe I just know it because BASF was the first chemical company to set up a social business with Mohammad Yunnus’ Grameen Bank. The term also seems to be more widely used in Europe than in the U.S. This would explain why I heard objections to using it for “the thing formerly known as Enterprise 2.0” from French thought leaders Isabelle Ayel and Bertrand Duperrin.

What if we can ignore ignore the possible confusion of ideas? Let me contribute my communications expertise to the #e20 vs. #socbiz discussion. One of my mantras in communication is “first consider your target group, then set your objective – and you’ll know what to do”.

In my opion, the current discussion – fascinating as it is – may be irrelevant because it is lead by the experts.

They were crucial for establishing the term Enterprise 2.0 (which I still passionately love, don’t get me wrong). However, now the beautiful movement we help to create is aiming at mainstream – and therefore the experts are no longer the main target group. If we want to reach mainstream, we need to talk mainstream.

And for this, the term “Enterprise 2.0” is just not good enough. Yes, to us #e20/#socbiz evangelists, it conveys the full concept: Using social software internally (and in a more advanced stage also externally) as an enabler for transforming an organization to a more open, networked, sharing, collaborative, innovative, agile and successful enterprise.

However, that’s not what happens in our main target group: When Joe Average – and Tony Top-Executive – hear “Enterprise 2.0”, they think of IT. Or, even worse, they imagine something that may be hip, but is also technical, nerdy, difficult to understand. This does not help to drive adoption. And it’s misleading because, as I blogged earlier, it’s not about technology.

So, first recommendation from a communications (and biological) perspective: allow the term “Enterprise 2.0” to be slowly overtaken by evolution.

Does that mean a recommendation to – from now on – start using the term “Social Business” for what we are doing? I can’t say I immediately took to the new term. I find it rather fuzzy (just look at the various definitions of social on the web). Therefore, I would have preferred something like Connected Enterprise, Networked Organization. On the other hand, the fuzziness could even help  because it gives us the freedom to position the term as we see fit.

Here comes the second communications recommendation: We should decide for one new term worldwide, consider it as empty container and fill it with substance.

Basically, you can do this with any term – if you put enough effort into it. In the Quora discussion, Estaban Kolsky suggested “Sally”.  If you consider that impossible – just think about “Apple”. But since we do not have Steve Job’s marketing department at our hands, why not make our lives easier and go for Social Business?

There are some very good ideas how to fill this term with content that will help to drive change in the mainstream. Just check out these excellent blog entries by Graham Hill, Jay Deragon, Rawn Shah, Luis Suarez, Oscar Berg, and Ray Wang. To get a taste of real mainstream, I recommend this CIO article by Heidi Ambler.

But before we all get carried away, be warned: No matter how well we fill the term “Social Business” with content, it’s no the silver bullet for every audience. It will indeed be helpful for a broad audience. If you work for a company and want to facilitate your colleagues’ transition to “what-we-are-getting-to-know-as-social-business”, even the new term will not be good enough.

Third communications recommendation: With all the content of Social Business in mind, tailor your wording to your audience – and their position in the adoption lifecycle. This might involve coming up with new, more specific terms.

Take my company BASF as an example. Internally, we never talked about “Enterprise 2.0”. I only use this term when presenting at conferences. To stress the business value, we even avoided the adjective “social”. Our global, internal platform is an “Online Business Network”. It’s known under the name “connect.BASF” – because that’s exactly what it does.