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How ready is your business for the social era?

1. The organization behaves like a community, not a hierarchy.
2. Management does not “broadcast” directives but is open and listens to employees.
3. Communications aren’t codified, rigid and ritualistic but flexible and spontaneous.
4. Obedience is not a highly valued quality. Innovation is.
5. Information is open. Management is transparent.
6. The company does not rely on controls and procedures to guide decision making, but on collaboration.

ILANA RABINOWITZ www.socialmediaexplorer.com (26 October, 2012)

Here’s the great thing about the social-digital-mobile world. Picture me sitting somewhere. I decide to look at my smartphone. I see David Graham, a digital channels expert with Deloitte in South Africa and someone I follow on Twitter, has just tweeted something interesting. It turns out to be a piece written by Ilana Rabinowitz, in New York. I read the article, and find it refers to a talk by Michael Zeisser, a senior executive with Liberty Media.

And now here I am to tell you what he/she/he/all-of-us are saying…

That’s what this new world is like. Important knowledge flies around the globe in seconds, gets altered and enhanced and aggregated, and finds its consumers and creates like-minded communities from disparate corners of the planet. Distance is dead; People who share values and expertise and ideas find one another, wherever they might live.

This gives us all an important set of messages about the new world we’ll all be doing in business in: it’s connected, all the time; it’s interactive, all the time; it’s quicker than you think; and it’s social.

A completely different type of business entity is going to be needed to deal with this world. It isn’t about connecting to social media and giving your staff iPads; it’s about a fundamental rethink of the type of businesses we run. In particular, the culture we build and the behaviours we encourage.

Take a look at the 6 principles of ‘social’ business highlighted above, from Ilana’s piece. Then take a look around you and wake up to the jolted realization of how far your organization may be from what’s needed.

Most organizations we know today are not like that at all. They are rigidly hierarchical; communication is almost entirely one-way (downwards and outwards) and subject to strict rules and weirdly outmoded protocols; obedience gets you promoted; every damn thing is a secret, guarded by a select few; and procedures and controls hold sway over everything.

That is precisely the type of organization that is going to fail in the digital-mobile-social world. Spectacularly.

If your organization doesn’t know this yet, may I respectfully suggest that it is your duty to start pointing it out. Time is not your friend. Many of you are unfortunately going to have to deal with senior executives and directors who think smartphones are just for phone calls, tablets are just for email, and social media is just for their children. You’re going to need a strident alarm-clock and some strong coffee to wake them up. Start using the outpourings of thought leaders in social business to your advantage.

As you play evangelist, do remember that what is happening is a good thing. Businesses will be forced to become more like social communities than militaristic ones. Conversation and dialogue will be valued, not discouraged. Ideas will come from anywhere, and will enter the ‘hive’ to be polished up and tested. Employees will feel like customers, and customers like employees. Leaders will manage communities and opinions, not unthinking robots. Bad things will become difficult to hide away in locked offices, and your ability to collectively do good things will become your brand.

As the year draws to an end, I am busy thinking about how to make my business more ready for things digital, things mobile, and things social in 2013. I sincerely hope you are doing the same.

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