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.In 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.
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.
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.
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…
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.
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.