As the business world continues to innovate and move faster, social technologies are changing the way businesses communicate and engage with internal and external constituencies. This dramatic change alters both the structure of organizations and the opportunities they choose to pursue. A critical factor in whether companies will succeed in this new networked age is the way in which executives support, invest in and adopt social technologies themselves. While a great deal of progress has been made, executives still vary widely in their perspectives, expectations and use of social tools, making progress inconsistent and unpredictable across organizations.
We launched The Social Executive research initiative to help community and social business leaders better articulate the executive journey and identify what resources and experiences would best help executives progress at each stage.
Over the last three months I have had the pleasure of interviewing an incredibly diverse range of executives – heads of learning, HR, IT, marketing, as well as CEOs – and heard first hand about the opportunities and challenges they see for their business and how social approaches are contributing (or not) to that challenge.
One of the first areas we explored with executives was how they connected the use of social technologies in their organizations to business needs and opportunities. What we found were three primary drivers for adoption:
- The Need to Innovate
- Solving an Execution Challenge
- Fear of Falling Behind
We then asked about their personal journey, they ranged from very little use of social technologies to individuals who developed their usage as the technologies emerged. Here are three insights I found particularly interesting:
- Some of the executives leading the most successful online communities had little interest in participating on public social networks like Facebook and Twitter.
- There was virtually no shared sources of expertise on the social technology or social business trend. Learning about how to use these technologies and what they could do for organizations was extremely sporadic.
- Innovation was happening in the most surprising places. Yes, there were some more expected places where innovation was found (see the UBM case study below), but some of the most interesting innovation was happening in places I had never been exposed to – in the government, manufacturing and agriculture sectors.
We are very excited to deliver The Social Executive research to the market and our first installment, a case study of UBM, which illustrates one company’s journey in establishing an internal social network. This case study looks at the highlights of their implementation, the perspectives of key senior executives and some of the groundbreaking innovation made possible by a more networked communications structure. It illustrates the importance of both executive leadership and engagement, covering CEO David Levin’s early decisions and his personal use of social tools and how those decisions helped to unify company culture and made collaboration and employee engagement easier and more prevalent ultimately leading to innovations that would not have been possible otherwise.