Spin Doctor for #e20s

spin-doctor-smallWhen I visited the Enterprise 2.0 Summit in Paris (in 2013) I was surprised by the amount of quality content (presentations). I learned a lot those two days. And not just about Social Business as a theoretical practice, but also about it’s real world value.

The greatest bonus, or advantage, of being active in this field is that you’re surrounded by people who understand the benefits of social. They are social. They have to be social.

This means they’re open, not closed.
They’re helpful, not obstructive.
They’re friendly, not arrogant.
They’re supportive, not opposing.

All in all, I had a lot of fun, which was a first for me at a conference.

#e20s Meetup

When the schedule for the Meetups was made available, and there was one in Brussels, I simply had to go.

Present was a small contingent (Bjoern Negelmann, Rawn Shah and Frédéric Williquet) and the topic was, of course, Social Business and the upcoming Summit. There was also some regular chitchat, and all-in-all it was a pleasant evening.


I suppose my showing up, being part of the evening triggered enough in Bjoern to ask me to be part of the Ambassadors team for the Summit. This is why I’ve been Tweeting and writing about the Summit so much. That, and the fact it is my favourite conference.

I take that role pretty serious, I do find it to be an honour to be asked. This might sound a little too Klingon for some, but it’s true nonetheless.

Spin Doctor

And then there’s that. Born out of a necessity, my predecessor moved on to a different project, the role was offered to me.


So, there it is my friends, prove that being active in a community has its rewards.

And this is an important lesson too, because it strikes at the very heart of social. If you do nothing, share nothing, ask nothing.., you will receive nothing.
At the other end of the spectrum, every seed you plant will yield some result. And these results can either be reaped by you at a time of your choosing, or something unexpected pops up or falls down.

And in the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make. – The Beatles

The Ten Tenets of Social Business

I want to share with you the The Ten Tenets, as put on paper by Dion Hinchcliffe and Peter Kim, in their book “Social Business by Design”, both authors are well seasoned in Social Business and working at Dachis Group (so, all credit goes to them).

The Ten Tenets of Social Business

…the code is more what you’d call “guidelines” than actual rules.
– Captain Barbossa

You can find these tenets in the appendices of the book, which makes sense, but to me they were so profound and provided so much clarity that I needed to put them front and centre. I also wanted to elaborate on them, to take each tenet and explain why they make so much sense.

The Ten Tenets

“[These] tenets represent a fundamentally open, participative, scalable, and rich way of living, working, and otherwise connecting and engaging with the world.”

  1. Anyone can participate.
  2. Create shared value by default.
  3. While participation is self-organising, the focus is on business outcomes.
  4. Enlist a large enough community to derive the desired result.
  5. Engage the right community for the business purpose.
  6. Participation can take any direction. Be prepared for it, and take advantage of it.
  7. Eliminate all potential barriers to participation. Ease of use is essential.
  8. Listen to and engage continuously with all relevant social business conversations.
  9. The tone and language of social business are most effective when they’re casual and human.
  10. The effective social business activities are deeply integrated into the flow of work.

I agree, this does look a lot like The Ten Commandments and yes, it might read a bit presumptuous, stating these rules to abide by.

However, I ‘believe’ these tenets, or rules, or fundamentals can be a strong guide for a successful implementation.

Let us dissect them.

1) Anyone can participate

The base (foundation) of Social Business is social. There is no (pre)appointed elite.
The system (community) itself will make the distinction between those who are very active and those who are not, or those who add great value and those who do not.

The influencers need to earn their place. It is not given.

All are welcome, and it’s a safe environment to share your thoughts or to ask questions.

2) Create shared value by default

As far as rules (or guidelines) go, this one is a bit special, because it focuses on content creation. This can be in the form of a white paper, a manual, but also a question or answer can have great added value.

When you consider that anything you create and add to the community creates value, even if it’s just a comment, then the combined effort of the community becomes priceless real quick.

3) While participation is self-organising, the focus is on business outcomes

We don’t want to police the platform. This would inhibit the free flow of information and knowledge.
Providing a transparent platform regulates the use of the platform, there is always social control. Anybody stepping to far out of line will be noticed.

Keeping in mind that the platform is there to serve the business, creating any content reflecting this notion eliminates a certain frivolous attitude found on the public platforms.

4) Enlist a large enough community to derive the desired result

When you want to win the election, you need the majority.
When you want to start a revolution, you need critical mass.

It takes time to reach significant volume. Starting out with Social Business means finding your champions and start somewhere. But, when reached, the community will propel itself.

5) Engage the right community for the business purpose

Relevancy is crucial to building a valuable community that suits your business purposes, or goals.
Only when the right community is engaged will content be created and can critical mass be achieved.

6) Participation can take any direction. Be prepared for it, and take advantage of it

This is a very scary notion. It also separates the winners from the losers.
Providing this transparent platform where anybody can participate invariably leads to a freedom that most have not experienced before.

It can leave them with a need to innovate, to learn, to create forward thinking groups and solution driven debates. This is your advantage. Learning to distinguish between meaningless chatter and constructive ideas.

When point 1 through 5 are adhered to, good things are bound to happen from “letting go”.

7) Eliminate all potential barriers to participation. Ease of use is essential

You need participation, from as many people (employees, customers, partners) as possible.
Be sure the platform you use is as easy to learn and use as anything people are already using. Over complicating things repels the ones who hesitate to join. Your dedicated platform also eliminates as many distractions as possible.

Educate people in the use of the platform.

8) Listen to and engage continuously with all relevant social business conversations

In order to create momentum you need to engage. This is especially relevant for executives. Listening gives unprecedented access to the hearts and minds of your employees, which is, by its nature, your most valuable asset and a bottomless source of innovation.
By engaging in these conversations you can guide the discussion towards a certain outcome, maybe more in line with business objectives.

You can lead through engagement, one comment can entice users to be more engaged, think more about the direction of the conversation or more towards a solution.

9) The tone and language of social business are most effective when they’re casual and human

This seems so obvious, but it’s harder to achieve than you might think, especially for executives who are trained in conversing in a particular manner.
But, this also goes for employees when suddenly confronted with a comment or question from the top floor. They too need to maintain their “normal” tone of conversation in order to convey whatever it is they’re thinking of.

10) The effective social business activities are deeply integrated into the flow of work

The long term concept of Social Business shines through here. A fundamental approach is a necessary step to integrate Social Business throughout the whole company, to make it business as usual.

A critical idea which shapes the whole philosophy of Social Business.

Social Business in Europe, not what you might think.

Or maybe it’s exactly what you think. The problem of having the same name for two quite different definitions can be confusing. Doing a search of “Social Business in Europe” shows you exactly what I mean.

Social Business in EuropeYou can’t see the forest through the trees. As a tried and true metaphor, it explains my point exactly. In an earlier post I described both versions, and the relation between the two, and you’ll see one variation gets completely overgrown by the other.

When you search, and look around on the web, Social Business in Europe is predominantly about the Prof. Yunus definition of Social Business.

For me, as a Social Business professional this is a bit disconcerting. Because I follow Peter Kim’s definition of the term. I focus on the goings on within a company, how they communicate, how they share knowledge and engage with their employees, partners and customers.

In essence, I don’t care how they make a profit.

Why is this a problem?

Well, image some executive hears about Social Business in Europe. Some partner or even a competitor is very happy with their Social Business implementation. Having nice results because of it. Getting their Social Media under control, having proper on-line conversations and happy employees. All smiles, all around (it can happen).

Now this executive does the Google thing and is hard pressed to find anything related to what he heard during lunch.

What he does find is a lot of information on Social Business as depicted by Prof. Yunus.

OK, so why is that a problem?

Because this executive is going to abandon his search really quick when he finds out that according to Yunus’ definition of Social Business, his company needs to change the way it does business and needs to become socially responsible in a way that requires him to uproot his entire business process. Or at least part of it.

He’s not going to do that. And chances are, he won’t pursue the idea for some time. Missing out on the great benefits of having a Social Business according to Kim’s definition.

Now, I love the idea of Yunus’ Social Business, the concept is tantalising and the fact that the EU is picking this up is very promising. I do believe it’s a very important part of building a sustainable society.

However, not every company is ready for this, far from it, hardly any company is ready for this.

It is happening

A Google search on “Social Business in Europe” might lead you to believe we don’t practice Kim’s version of Social Business. The opposite is quite true. Rawn Shah did a write up following the Enterprise 2.0 Summit in Paris, earlier this year.

Rawn says:

Enterprise 2.0 and Social Business are reaching a stage of maturity in Europe with detailed cases from mid and large-sized organizations from a wide range of industries, headquartered in various European countries.

Even Microsoft Netherlands is doing a great job moving into the Social Business sphere.

The Difference

The difficulty lies in the different definitions of Social Business. Although both firmly rooted in “Social”, both have a very different impact on business. So much so, that a clear distinction has to be made when looking for a certain solution.

And let’s face it, most established companies will be looking for the Enterprise 2.0 version of Social Business.

Social Business in Europe

I know the two definitions are sticking. One comes from the US and is generating considerable traction. Books are written and businesses are build around the term.

The other comes from Bangladesh and, apparently, is getting momentum too, only on a different continent.

One is rooted in business and aims to create a more inspiring working environment leading to more streamlined and resilient company. The other a business which aims to create “new kind of capitalism that serves humanity’s most pressing needs”.

Quite a difference. Heck, Wikipedia doesn’t even recognize the first, they refer to Social Media.

Bottom line (literally), when you’re searching for a Social Business solution, make sure you get the right answers.