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A small conversation with Olivier Blanchard (@thebrandbuilder ) on Twitter left me with an interesting question: what drives us into the need and will to change long time cultural habits (the kind of paper we are writing on), if not fancying novelty? My take is that setting our mind in a different environment not only enables a different perception of our surrounding, even if this environment is as trivial as a sheet of paper, but also changes our very way of thinking, in this case helping us fostering new ideas. Typically, it means emergence.
Technology always has deeply influenced our lives and behaviors. The wheel had revolutionized our geographical influence, electricity allowed us to extend our physical abilities, all of this because some people shifted their thinking from the primary destination of these technologies to new uses, empowering their real potential. Innovation always has been a matter of shifting the way we look at current objects, behaviors, usages or processes, finding and leveraging new patterns from the existing.
2.0 technologies are already changing the way we are using the Web, the way we are connecting, conversing and interacting with each other. We discovered that these conversations are a totally new way to learn, to collaborate and to exchange knowledge, but most of our initiatives are still about harnessing these technologies into existing models. To go further, really unleash their potential and embrace the systemic changes they are allowing, we all need a shift.
One of the current trends in Enterprise 2.0 frameworks is the use of social tools to optimize business processes, to fit them into the existing, or to replace them when (and only when) they fall short. This, of course, will minimize failure cases, will speed up business efficiency and facilitate adoption in organizations. But…. where is the shift? Our process driven businesses are no more than thirty years old, and were born from a misunderstanding of Japanese heterarchic and consensual social culture. A process-oriented approach to Enterprise 2.0 won’t allow place for the most powerful aspects of what the Social Web emphasizes: self-organization, non deterministic outcome, unconstrained trust, informal knowledge capture, borderless ecosystems, etc.
We have no tangible, rational proof that the process driven organization is the best model for today businesses, apart from “it works better than before” statements. One of the main reasons why companies are not ready to shift to another, networked, model is risk avoidance. While sustainability, and the gain of new competitive advantages, are crucial for any business, risk avoidance is a management and delivery model which literally turns its back to the non-linear complex world we are living in, and are in fine unsustainable. The very nature of CAS makes them unsuitable for complicated rules and determinist mechanisms, and complexity must instead be embraced with simple, quickly reconfigurable rules.
Marketing, too, needs a shift to truly take into account and take advantage from new customers’ behaviors. A drastic change happened since Peter Drucker wrote that marketing and innovation are the two basic functions of enterprise; both are now tightly connected through direct unbiased interactions with customers. The rise of Social CRM tools allow marketers to get insights from consumers and exchange knowledge to build better customer experiences. This dive into the Social Web and into the conversations blooming everywhere is of course a gold mine for today’s marketing. But if the data those conversations convey is capital for sales or the customer relations department, the weak signals embedded into those interactions are even more important for innovation and for every core business activity. By allowing putting the customer’s voice at the center of organizations, Social CRMs are true design thinking tools. Here lies their real power. To harness it, marketers, from being an interface between businesses and customers, must shift to become real ‘trends amplifiers’, and get ready for a role convergence with innovators, leaving data crunching and mining to an evolving sales department.