Smarter business in the year 2012 – also on paper…

I have attended a fair share of conferences and event – some good, some bad. One thing that always makes me a little apprehensive is when the big vendors invite to the big annual events. It’s always a good chance to see all the new stuff in action but more often than not they roll out the red carpet and present a ‘Big Mac’ event. Big Mac in the sense that it’s beautifully presented but leaves few lasting impressions other than you are hungry again two hours later.

This morning I boarded the train from Aarhus at 05.42 with a slight apprehension and when I entered the beautiful venue 3½ hours later it was reinforced by the fact that it turned out to be a HUGE event. I don’t know what I had expected but a crowd of 1000+ delegates was certainly not it!

At the time of writing this I am on my way home from what ended up being one of the best events of its kind that I have attended for a long time. It would be a shame to say that my world was turned upside down but it was very refreshing to hear how IBM works with social business externally. Susan Emerick explained how everyone in IBM has the opportunity to participate on social platforms but also how they identify talent and resource people internally and make their participation an important part of their strategic go to market initiatives.

One of their very important conclusions was that the ‘digital engagement’ was 3 times more effective than the traditional digital marketing. I spoke to Susan afterwards where she reiterated this point – find an applicable area where you are likely to create new business opportunities – dedicate a portion of your budget to the new initiative – and compare…

The comparison obviously requires measurement. Measurement inevitably categorises content (and even people) as good or bad in terms of their digital efforts. In my opinion, this will become an inconvenient truth for many people in the social business. If you listen to many experts in this area they are advocating various pseudo-metrics related to how engaging you are but in the end it all boils down to what can be documented on the bottom line……or as Jerry McGuire would say – uhm, well, shout – SHOW ME THE MONEY!!

The Swedish Chef in action (photo by @unwiredchris)

However, the main topic for the social business track remained the challenges of creating an organization where the people and the culture embrace the value of sharing information and knowledge openly. Until this change is brought about it makes little sense to talk

about business opportunities in stead we need to focus our energy on getting the right mix of ingredients that make up a proper social business and this both begins and ends with cultural change – or to paraphrase ‘the Swedish chef’ Christian Carlsson who introduced the metaphor of social business components as ingredients in a bread:

“Culture is the yeast that makes a social business rise”

Enough about food….. What about the paper mentioned in the header? Well, I was not the only one who was surprised when all participants was reminded to fill out the evaluation form and hand it in before we left. I couldn’t help but to ask if that was what IBM defined as “smarter business” but as it turned out, they had learned that online forms were not nearly as effective for gathering feedback. Agree or disagree, if that’s the case then a piece of paper CAN be a smarter way – also in our hyper-connected world.

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