By now it’s safe to say social media (in the context of business) has gone mainstream.
Sure, there are people who still scoff, but most of us in organizations are planted pretty securely on the social media bandwagon, and now we’re turning our attention to the details of implementation.
And this is when we often come to a somewhat disappointing realization: The way we run our organizations does not always seem to be compatible with social media. It’s not that we don’t have the social media skills or knowledge, but when we try to get it done, we find that elements of our culture, or the details of our processes, or even the basic expectations around behavior, get in the way of doing social media the way it needs to be done.
We tackle this issue in our new book, Humanize: How People-Centric Organizations Succeed in a Social World. We argue the power of social media can actually help us create more effective organizations–not just so social media works better, but so everything works better.
Social media has been wildly successful specifically because it has tapped into what makes us human–yet our organizations have traditionally been run like machines. This is the source of the difficulty in implementing social media. The solution we propose is to make our organizations more human, and we identify four specific human elements that can guide us in the process: Being open, trustworthy, generative, and courageous.
The first human element we dig into is “open.” We started with open because it has always been the foundation of social media’s power. Social media took what was closed and made it open. It decentralized, gave power to distributed systems, and enabled everyone to take action. And it’s also something we aspire to be as human beings: Open to possibility; open to new ideas; open to growth.
So what does it mean for organizations? We see the affect occurring at three levels: Organizational culture, internal process, and individual behavior.
Open culture is about decentralization. Note this does not necessarily mean radical decentralization. These issues are never either/or. The issue here is about embracing decentralization, not becoming totally decentralized. In the book we ask you to take a close look at who really steps up and makes decisions, speaks, and takes action. Are there ways you could expand who falls into those categories?
Open processes embody systems thinking. Systems thinking is about understanding what happens in complex systems without always demanding simple, linear cause-effect explanations. Open organizations build a capacity for systems awareness into how they do things. It can help you create silos that actually work and maybe help you move past the evils of strategic planning.
And open behavior is all about ownership. It’s the kind of ownership that lets the right person do the right thing at the right time. It requires that you know a lot more about how things actually get done in your organization (as opposed to only the official version), and it requires you to be able to handle conflict, among other skills. It results in empowering your people, not in the mushy self-help kind of way, but in the get-things-done, solve-problems-where-they-are kind of way. It’s about each employee being able to “own” the relationship they have with an individual customer.
When you start to change your organization to include these elements, you start to make it more human, and this will enable you to move past the social media implementation hurdles you’ve been facing. It’s not that we need to make social media more compatible with our organizations–it’s the opposite. We need to make our organizations more compatible with the power of social media.
Interested in digging deeper into this topic with us?
Please join Humanize authors Jamie Notter and Maddie Grant January 12 at 11 am Central Time for a very interactive webinar: Humanize: Creating People-Centric Organizations that Succeed in a Social World. This one-hour session is $50 and you can register here. (Please register (top right corner) on the site if you are having trouble accessing the link.)
Jamie Notter is a vice president at Management Solutions Plus, where he leads the consulting division. Jamie brings 20 years of experience in conflict resolution, diversity, leadership, and management to his practice, including seven years running his own consulting firm.
Maddie Grant, CAE, is the chief social media strategist for SocialFish. She draws from more than 10 years of experience in marketing, communications, and international business operations to help associations large and small build capacity for using social media to achieve business results. Maddie is also the lead editor for SocialFishing, one of the most visited and respected blogs for the association/nonprofit industry.