Is social business learning accelerating innovation?
The originator of general semantics, Alfred Korzybski came up with the phrase, “A map is not the territory” meaning that a map can describe a territory and give an understanding of the parts such as rivers, altitude and scale (e.g. size and location of a hill) which then enables us to navigate the land. However, a map can never equal the territory(land) and at best is only a representation of it.
The problem is that land and territory can change but we may still be using a map that no longer represents the land. In business many people have a map of the market or customers, but often these differ within the organization and due to change may no longer represent a true representation of their customers or market. If you put people in separate parts in your company and hinder them to see the whole picture, then they will act as isolated units: each group will try to optimize their part of the world. This can cause the following problems:
- Old ways of doing business may be perpetuated
- Lack of understanding of how each business area impacts the other
- Siloed cultures and communications
- Impairment of organizational learning
- Disparate representation of brand to customers
- Poor levels of customer service
Brands are not just the product or service; a brand is the people within the organization; together they are the way a business develops, how it delivers a service, changes to adapt to market forces and innovates. Great brands recognise the need to have employees that are brand advocates, share and develop knowledge and are committed to delivering a high quality service.
Moving from task to network focus – I do, I learn, I share (we learn)
If organizations embrace learning and sharing they can move to a more collaborative and participative model of development. People in this model do, learn but more importantly share their learning with others accelerating the pace of change and innovation within the business.
Leaders within this model need to move the organization from the purely functional and target driven model to a more humanistic and networked model to capture the intelleigence of the many (as advocated by Philip Kotler in Marketing 3.0). Humans are naturally good at social learning. We learn best from blending our own experiences with others and through discussions we learn new perspectives.
Social technologies help people with informal learning; this is the kind of learning that happens through conversations over a coffee. Social technologies can also provide more formal collaborative and learning spaces. Even educational institutions are now recognising the importance of social technologies for collaboration and co-creation.
What does this mean for organizations
A lot of changes are happening at the same time, the cloud, mobile, social and analytics – that are
converging: technological, social and economic. Together they create new opportunities as old business models are destroyed and new business models form. But if the territory is changing how many businesses have old maps that no longer represent their markets. More importantly how are they updating their understanding regularly so that they are still relevant to customers and competitive in
their operations. Organizations need to move to planning and integrating social technologies so that they can benefit from:
- Cultural alignment
- Open and agile leadership
- Shared knowledge
- Collaboration and co-creation of new ideas to develop the business
- Harnessing external and internal relationships (network intelligence)
- Improve customer service
Some TED Talks about learning and management change
Dan Pink on Limits of Management