Blogging was where we began, and how we built our company so we have preserved this archive to show how our thinking developed over a decade of developing the use of social technology inside organisations

Social on the Outside needs Social Business on the Inside


I was disappointed not to make it over to New York for Stowe Boyd’s Social Business Edge conference yesterday, due to the ashpocalypse. When it became clear travel was impossible, I agreed with Stowe to record a video of my talk instead, which is embedded below (21mins) minus a couple of late night editing mistakes from the original that was shown yesterday.

I really enjoyed the livestream of the event, which I was supposed to co-host with Stowe. The other speakers were funny, informative and engaging – even the other victims of travel problems who provided videos.

The focus of my talk was the idea that hanging shiny social media baubles on the cold, hard external walls of a corporate organisation runs the risk of creating a false brand promise unless this work has strong internal underpinnings in the form of social business structures that can do something about the noise, insights and feedback that outbound communications generate.

Key to achieving this is building bridges between the inside and outside worlds, and recognising that we are all (corporate, as well as human beings) products of our networks, ecosystems and connections. I touched on Christakis’ work on contagion and the influence of social networks and emphasised what an opportunity this embodies for brands with a strong value proposition, such as the poster child of modern customer service Zappos, and how this also creates a building-block, API-style opportunity for others to build on your products or services to create even more value.

Social business strategy and infrastructure have a key role to play in this process, and can help shift the balance towards people over process. It is also time, I think, to put into practice all the wonderful learning we have gathered over recent years about how people work, what motivates and influences them, rather than continue with the huge waste of talent and energy caused by existing hierarchical bureaucracies. Finally, I offered some thoughts on necessary precursors for social business design work in organisations, and shared my colleague Caroline Dangson’s recent observations on what to look for in an internal champion.

6 Responses to Social on the Outside needs Social Business on the Inside

  1. By Andrew Swenson on April 21, 2010 at 1:34 pm

    Thanks so much for taking the time to put this video together. We certainly missed you at SBE, but your contribution, albeit not ideal, was well received.
    Part of the struggle I’ve had in explaining social business concepts to others within my organization has been a lack of a simple way to talk about complex issues. The baubles metaphor has filled a gap in my argumentation, and for that I’m very grateful.
    So here’s to limitless determination and stamina. I know there are many of us who are going to need it to effect social change withing our industrially-minded organizations.

  2. By Lee Bryant on April 30, 2010 at 5:05 pm

    Thanks Andrew, and you are right – we need stamina, determination, but also patience and fortitude.

  3. By Ruth Howard on May 2, 2010 at 4:38 am

    Hi Lee this is directly applicable in my mind to education institutions and their students.

  4. By Lee Bryant on May 10, 2010 at 1:24 pm

    Thanks Ruth – yes, I would tend to agree. The question is: how can educational institutions begin to transform internally to better meets the needs of their students?

  5. By Gian on September 27, 2010 at 12:02 am

    I totally agree with you.
    We can’t separate the adoption of collaborative applications without teaching open and bottom-up practices, scales of values and logics.
    Without these processes it’s difficult to manage social media strategies too.
    If we agree with this (and several companies are learning it as well), the question is how?
    In my opinion two mechanisms must be clear with clients:
    1. Making an alliance between professional and person: this is the first step to humanise the enterprises.
    The professional does not stop being a person even if the company does not care. The part that the leadership doesn’t want to consider acts implicitly and can be more dangerous if not managed. To transform the person into an ally of the professional and not just a cost or a loss it should be considered the strategic role of intrinsic motivations.
    This is the first mechanism to be clarified in order to build an organizational culture in which to have more participation, cooperation and self-regulation.
    2. An economy of processes: the second step, the real value of Enterprise 2.0 (or whatever we want to call it).
    If you plan well the collaborative applications involving and engaging users, the adoption of tools, the learning of practices and scales of values (open and bottom-up) they will merge into a single process.
    So if we help companies to consider the person in their employees we can create the basis of credible project, strategy for users-employees and later users-customers.
    To do this we must unite change management with organisational psychology and at the same time we must unite cognitive psychology and social psychology with interaction design.
    If the first union is still unknown to many but it’s an approach with a long tradition, the union between psychology and interaction design is still something new and is what me and Davide Casali are proposing since 4 years ago.
    You describe the social networks as complex systems, as it’s well described in the book “Connected”.
    If on one side we have users as nodes (expressions of a network, a complex system) along a continuum we can get to the other side where we have users as psychological and social systems. In this case the network is the expression of specific psychological and social impact of users.
    The two levels are both necessary and if we have in the first as a tool the social network analysis, in the second we applied psychology to interaction design (see for example, Social Usability Checklists or Relational Motivations).
    All this leads to a circular coordination between change management and interaction design, having as a red wire the psychology of the users… of the people.

  6. By Lee Bryant on October 1, 2010 at 10:02 am

    Thanks Gianandrea,
    I think you express the inter-disciplinary nature of this challenge very well indeed and I totally agree with you and Davide about the relationship between interaction design and psychology.
    Getting this done inside companies, with their existing structures and incentives, is entirely another matter 😉
    But we try…