At FT Innovate in Londom this week much of the conversation was about the role of social media in innovation.
Martha Lane Fox advocated business leaders get themselves involved in social media in her keynote.
But it was clear that for most the best this means is the opportunity to get an ever-better understanding of the customer.
Which sounds on the face of it a very excellent thing - a step up from social as 'earned media' or attempting to use people as your choice of broadcast channel.
But there's something missing. And the missing bit is one of the three quick indicators of the difference between what gets referred to as 'social business' and what I urge you to consider instead, Open Business.
Open Businesses are purpose-led platform-thinking organisations. They use their available resources to discover people who care about the same things the org does, bringing them together to surface their concerns and working with them to support them in resolving those concerns. It means outcomes which are a better fit with the real needs of those for whom they are intended.
There's little wrong with social business and much that is good. But it rarely inspires business leaders. In fact I know a very senior business journalist who has never even heard the term.
And when I was invited in to IBM to talk about Social Business in London last week I made the point that few CEOs will feel comfortable with turning their business into a social one. The term creates unhelpful mental blocks. IBM folk reported similar concerns.
Why make life more difficult when what we all want is change for the better?
So what's the difference between Social and Open Business?
Here's three distinctions I see:
1. It's not about the tools - it is about Behaviours:
Often social business conversations focus on implementing software. Open Business urges you to think Behaviours first. What are people doing, what can and will they do? If you are starting with tools you'll likely starting in the wrong place.
2. Think less about messages and more about products. Open Business urges you to consider ways of making things with the people for whom they are intended; for the best possible fit with real need; for efficiency; for results people care about. Messages are an outcome of this process - not its purpose. Talk 'social' and all roads will lead you back to messages.
3. Ditch the customer.
No, really. Stop thinking about customers. Customers are people you intend to do things to. Open Business urges you to think about the long-suffering customer as partners to work with instead. It pushes those people deep into the production process - right to the start, to join with and be supported by the org in delivering the things all parties want - all partners want.
There are differences: Critical ones in transforming how business is done.
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