Elevator Pitch: I help a business maintain its fluidity.

First of all, apologies for the two selfies, I needed a picture of (or in) an elevator, I found two. Second, this is one of the longest posts ever on this blog, so the title is cleverly misleading. The actual pitch is all the way at the bottom, so you can scroll down, if you so desire.elevator-2In this day and age, where on-line relationships are more rampant then ever.., we sometimes tend to forget that the real world relationships are much more.., precious. It’s fine to meet somebody on-line, have a conversation or a discussion, even build something valuable. But, at the very least, have a good long Skype talk, with video, to get to know somebody beyond the 140 characters.

At the last #e20s, I met John Wenger, and, if you know him.., well, he’s one of those guys you have to meet for real. But.., the on-line conversation I had afterwards, was as interesting as the one off-line.

He asked me… What is your elevator pitch? Damn, and here I thought we’d just chat for a bit, forgo on the tough questions. But.., no…

However, I do have a pitch, or several, after asking myself ‘Why‘, I came up with;

Social Media Integration. Don’t Panic.., you too can get it under control.

For now, that’s still on my Twitter profile. On my website it’s a bit deeper, but not much;

Transform your Business into a Social Business. Unleash your Human Capital.

I stand by both of them, but do they convey what needs to be conveyed? In a literal sense, yes, they do. Question is, do you want to be literal, or does a good metaphor work better?

According to John, it does. And I have to agree. I used both pitches a few times and received a lot of blank expressions. Sure, after explaining the statement, I sometimes have a change to explain the underlying ideas about Social Business. And, of course, at a Social Business conference you get a lot of head nodding and affirmation with these statements.., but they understand the game.

elevator-1Rethinking

So what do I stand for? What do I deliver? How can I help a company? And.., why? In order to answer those questions, I think it’s best to go back a decade or so, and look at the flow of my IT career. Let me tell you why.

Back in 1998 IT was booming and companies grew so fast that they were reorganised twice a year. In my opinion, many (little) companies were build with one purpose, to be sold as quickly as possible. Consequently, I kept the same job for 12 years, but was employed by 5 different companies.

You get to learn to be flexible, to adapt. New branding, new e-mail, new pay-checks, new managers, new colleagues, new CV’s.., etcetera.

Tech vs. Humans

I started out in tech, networks. Learning about LDAP, IP packets, network configurations and so on and so forth. Tedious. Learning a lot and ending up on a helpdesk (or customer service desks, as they are now called). I took too much time helping people, never really quite made the quota. But, my customers were happy. I tried to help people, instead of closing a ticket as fast as possible.., thought it more important.

This started to be a trend for me. Solving communication problems between IT and Business. Speaking out at meetings, because none of the IT guys would. And finding myself more and more interested in the front end, rather than the back end.

I shifted my focus towards the Internet, and was placed on webserver maintenance. Errr… Nope, that’s not what I wanted.

Content Management

My first real experience with what we at the moment call Social Business, came with content management assignments. This was far more interesting, because I got to deal with people, instead of machines. It was still a one way connection, as far as the Internet went, but I was on to something.

With the advancement of technology, the platforms became slightly more interactive. Privately I already had a blog, build websites and tried to engage.

Social

Ever since I started in IT there had been one constant. The need to connect, to share, to retrieve information quickly and efficiently. However, this could not be done. Several attempts were made, with each takeover another brilliant idea failed miserably.

My last throes in IT circled around a Board of Subject Matter Experts. Our task was to come up with a platform which could unite employees and their on-line efforts. I never got to enjoy the end result, because by then, I needed to leave the nest. My IT days were over.., time to move on.

Back To Now

What interests me most about Social Business is the way it has the potential to change the way we live. On a fundamental level.

Think about it, if we change the way we work, the way we live our lives during office hours. This, invariably, will have an impact on our daily, and personal lives. It already does. Current office environments can be extremely nasty places to spend your precious time. Gossip, office politics, harassment, intimidation, bullying.., these things happen, all the time. And we take it home, get depressed, or even have burn-outs.

Can you imagine if you could turn that around? Turn that negative experience into a positive one. Can you imagine what that would do to a company, to the individual employee? Try…

Communication

The major issue that I come across is the blockage of information through lack of communication.

I know that with Social Business a primary objective is improving business goals through the use of social tools. And that’s all good and well. But the average employee has absolutely no interest in that during their day-to-day work. I never cared about the business goals of the company I worked for. I didn’t even know them. I wasn’t even told about them. Well, maybe in a very general manner. And it was always the same message; “Thanks for the hard work the past year. We did well, but not well enough. We need you to work hard for the next year”.., rinse and repeat.

But, communicating these goals, involve employees, ask for feedback, sharing the information, or even being informed on the decision making process, might just result in a rise of employee engagement which is so important for a successful enterprise.

Fluidity

At last.., now we’re getting somewhere.

Once you start with a metaphor, in this case the flow of water, you can come up with tons of examples, or at least quite a few.

Bruce Lee pointed out the adaptability of water. It always takes the shape of it’s container. It can crash and it can flow.

For a business this translates pretty well. When you let information flow where it needs to go, in an organic and natural way, those who need the information, receive the information.
And when it’s time to crash, maybe with a quick-to-market product, you have a much better change of doing so by directing the flow where it needs to go.

Or take a dam. A marvel in engineering, but, when the pressure is too high, it can burst. If you keep your employees mute, and in the dark, you run the risk of building up a pressure which you cannot control. Easing the pressure with a steady flow prevents unnecessary problems, or risks.

On a much smaller scale, a plumber can be, at times, the most important person in your life. When there is a blockage in your piping, you’d be very happy when somebody can find that blockage and remove it.

As you can imagine, there are plenty of examples.

So, when you ask me what I do, I don’t say; “I’m in Social Business”, but, I say:

I help a business rediscover its fluidity.

And if they ask what that means, I say;

I help you to make sure the flow of information runs like a well maintained river. Because you do not want to obstruct or divert it too much, when you do, it becomes unpredictable, and maybe even dangerous. Water (information) needs to flow, and be redirected when applicable. Irrigation needs to be set-up, so you can be sure it gets where it is needed, in the quantities you desire.

Be like water my friend.

Author: Rogier Noort

Digital Transformer | Thinker | Listener | Speaker | Podcaster | Writer | Blogger Twitter or LinkedIn.

6 thoughts on “Elevator Pitch: I help a business maintain its fluidity.”

  1. I have one question. What happens if you share your one-liner and they look away and walk away, and you don’t get the chance to engage/explain? That is the only thing that worries me. I like the water analogy…and wonder if it would be more effective if you combined them with a bit more info in your first statement? Versus “I help businesses discover their fluidity by managing business information like we manage a well- run river.” ? Not trying to stick my nose in, just using my Maximizer strength to polish your awesome pearl.

    1. The whole point of this thought exercise is to get some feedback.., from you, and others. Surely I cannot think up everything I need to know. And, as ever, your feedback is a precious commodity.

      Yes, a great question with a great answer.

      It sure is a good idea to add a bit more to that sentence. Make it into a proper pitch. Thanks for the suggestion, Maureen. Now all I need to do is memorise it 🙂

      1. Awesome! I hate modifying someone’s stuff if they don’t really want it – 🙂 I was also thinking of this – what if you turned it into a question so they get the idea they will learn something from an expert. Somethig like: “Hey Rogier, what do you do?”
        “Well, have you ever heard of a concept called ‘business fluidity?”
        “No! What is that?”
        “Business fluidity is a new concept associated with the management of data and information to help the business run smoothly. I help companies manage their business information like a city manages a well run river…:” (etc.) 🙂 Always noodling, Rogier, always noodling! 🙂 I think it’s great – keep fiddling.

        1. I just think that’s brilliant… yes, that could work. I will make a point of this for the next opportunity. Thanks for the great advice.., it’s always welcome. Much appreciated.

  2. It’s a tricky one isn’t it? This whole area isn’t something that is all that easy to describe, much less fit into a punchy elevator pitch. It’s far from ideal.

    What do you say you do to people outside the industry? The whole industry seems to have suffered from this to varying degrees. Is it social business or e20 (or something else)? Does this just look at ESNs or include open innovation, p2p etc.? Is there a crossover between us and the knowledge management industry? You know? Seemingly more questions than answers.

    1. Hey Adi,

      At past networking events, where I had the change to keep talking for a while, it’s something you have to explain (at length).
      I started with a general description of SocBiz (always calling it Social Business, and I never mention prof. Yunus – trying to be as less confusing as possible). Then work my way to employee engagement, customer care, innovation (speed). But I also try and convey the urgency, necessity, and scale of the change <– that might actually scare more people off, than win them.

      I think with this pitch, and with @maureenmonte:disqus 's help, I might actually be able to explain the situation (on some level), without scaring the crap out of anybody. At the very least, make them curious enough to have a conversation.

      But yes… it's tricky.

      Oh, and I don't believe this is a one-man-show. Especially within a larger business. It's just to all encompassing (business goals, knowledge mng, community mng, platform support, CRM… ).

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