It’s unfortunate that I wasn’t able to be in Milan last week for the Social Business Forum. Aside from the fact that any reason to be in Italy is a good one, the Forum brought together some of the most illustrious names in the social space together with major corporate players. See the valuable links below.
Reports from the Forum plus my own participation in SOBCon in Chicago a few weeks ago and last week’s Tech Policy Summit in Napa have focused my thinking on the question of “corporate culture.” It’s a term we use lightly though we know its import is huge. Many are the mergers that have failed for lack of matching cultures. Culture is an extraordinarily difficult thing to shift. It is difficult enough even to define. For a terrific book-length exploration, see my friend Naomi Stanford’s Corporate Culture: Getting it Right (published by The Economist). For the moment, a simpler reflection.
Let’s look at the two core aspects of the digital age in which we are working.
1. Change, innovation, Moore’s Law – the marks of products, markets, and the context for both are shifting; in many cases quickly, and in all cases faster than they have ever before. The more digital the effort, the faster the actual or potential change. We know this well. We forget it every day. It is more important, more disruptive, more full of potential value, than almost anyone has realized. Only by looking back will you see.
But the same tech revolution is bringing us answers.
2. The disruption of communications, marketing, sales, all aspects of the company’s interface with the wider world (and B2B as much as B2C, though that is not much grasped) is also the corrective. For the business significance of social is to open the steel barriers that we have erected around the organizational boundary to enable coming and going with that party for whom the entire enterprise exists: the customer. Not the customer as defined by marketing departments and product designers, by focus groups the kind of polling that still leaves most new launches a failure, but the actual customer, the end-user of the fruit of the business effort, that living, breathing, tweeting, Facebooking, always changing, creature in whose hands lies the power of success and disaster.
Social marketing has recognized this, even though it is in its infancy and we keep reading bizarrely unworldly statistics – like only 10% of CIOs are on Twitter, or the average Facebook page is only change twice a month, or 69% of B2B companies have no systematic way of tracking the gold dust which is social feedback (I’ve blogged about each of these; go search if you are interested). Point is, we are ambling along toward a social understanding of marketing and customer relations. We have hardly even noticed that the key to revamping corporate culture – the value holy grail in the context of disruptive change – lies also exactly here. For what social has begun to do is connect corporate culture with the culture of the market. And it is precisely in the alignment of those two that there lies competitive advantage.