Op-Ed: Has ‘Social Business’ Failed Us? #Socbiz

Social business has not struck the right chord with leaders. The movement has failed to earn their faith, trust and budgets in a significant way.

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The challenge is that most owners don’t trust their employees and don’t even want them speaking publicly about the company, lest they create litigation or a PR disaster. This state of affairs is a evidenced by the broken employer-employee relationship in many organizations that is in a downward spiral of distrust, resentment and passive aggressive or outright hostility as reflected in the dismal employee engagement surveys, Gallup and many others have conducted.


What’s Next for ‘Social Business’?

Like you, I realize the term “social business” is problematic in more ways than one. From the first time I used the phrase, I cringed a bit myself… Don’t be fooled though, it’s not only a language problem that killed social business, it’s a cacophony of fundamental flaws in the system burdened by the very real nature of the power laws that direct our leader’s decisions and behaviors.

While it would be great to blame the system and abdicate personal responsibility, it’s my fault too. And yours, your managers, your consultants, and everyone else who doesn’t raise their voice in support of fixing what’s broken.

Our experiences of how things have worked in the past, both good and bad, prevent us from understanding how things can be different. With so much pain from past failures holding us down, we no longer feel the weight on our backs of how broken many of our companies have become.

Few, if any, have an inkling of the unrecognized emotional tax paid by our most important assets, our human colleagues. This emotional tax costs us much more then lost dollars, its the loss of time and unrealized opportunities which are often accepted as a cost of doing business. Social business was supposed to fix this problem. Enterprise 2.0 was supposed to fix this problem.

While I believe social business’ time has come and is now gone, I still am one of the believers. The idea, the need and the opportunity are simply too huge to ignore. Words are powerful. Words are important. But the idea is too big, the pull too strong and the need too great to be held back by the failure of two words to win the attention and budgets of corporate leaders.

Given my personal history and close professional connection to social media,  enterprise 2.0 and social business, you may be wondering what’s next? For the first time in nearly 10 years, I don’t know how to properly reference this movement or our desired end state.

Certainly there is a Work Revolution happening as more employees are realizing the power they have to create change in ways both large and small. This is why we are beginning to convene Work Hackers to share their stories, their hacks and their methods of success. Adam Pissoni of Yammer is developing a story of what he calls the Responsive Organization. Others seek to promote the Business Agile Enterprise. Still many are just talking about the future of work.

What really matters is enabling every human asset to be free of fear, uncertainty and doubt so they may achieve their greatest potential in life and in work. A connected society is a better society, with mutual benefit from our interdependence making the world more tolerant, more livable and more propserous.

Your assignment, should you choose to accept it, is not to get caught up in the words, but to connect with each other and figure out how to re-imagine our broken businesses and set about trying to fix them.

Fail fast, fail often and find the greatest success possible. After all, it can’t be a worse failure then the current state of affairs, so why accept the status quo when you can be the change you want to see in the world?


Guest post by Chris Heuer, CEO, Alynd (@chrisheuer); this article has been edited and condensed.

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