Make no mistake, a fundamental embrace of the revolution just beginning in digital communication is core to every company planning to be around in more than a couple of years. Not many (any?) of them really get it. Here are three key reasons.
1. The “social” fallacy. We use this term, yet it merges, blends, squishes together many divergent phenomena – from the chit-chat/cat pic end of the data explosion to what are still generally Sears-catalog marketing efforts – to what we are really talking about. Andrew McAfee recently explained why he coined the term “Enterprise 2.0” and avoids the term “social” with “hard-headed” C-Suite types, as it suggests something soft. I’m not suggesting we can give it up, or that “2.0” language (itself now, well, jaded) will answer. But we have a big branding problem here.
2. The digital/IRL fallacy. Someone tweeted today that in a year or two 25% of business will have a Chief Digital Officer. O boy. The “social” revolution is not about segmenting off yet another slice of the dispersed responsibilities of the C-Suite; it’s about integration. And now, I suppose, we await a new fad: the Chief Integration Officer. Integrative thinking comes very hard to “functional” people and, in a fundamental way, is rendering them systematically dysfunctional. There are a lot of people in high places in these organizations who need to check out their golf swing.
3. The generational fallacy. OK, there is a certain utility in throwing around “digital natives” language, but it’s getting not just passe but dangerous. The depressing lack of engagement of CIOs in social media (now well-documented) is nothing to do with their age. It’s to do with their inability to flex, to roll with the continuing punches of innovation, to grasp a rising level of risk as a friend, to grab the keys to organizational transformation – and value creation.
I’ve argued before that the neglect of social, side by side with a far more long-standing refusal to bring women into the top echelons, reveals a deep-seated death-wish on the part of U.S. business. What we need above all is to reframe the questions raised in the search for value, and rebrand the resources of the 21st century economy. Now.