Who the smart organizations are

David Terrar writes a terrific post on the SOMESSO blog on the  gap between corporate culture and what he calls ‘Web 2.0 society.’

What especially resonates for me about David’s words are the simple truths he articulates on some people’s behaviours in organizations, particularly large ones, that erect hurdles and other obstacles to prevent the organization as a whole from being a connected organization.

But he offers some strong light at the end of a dark tunnel. See how this resonates with you:

[…] Those of us at the leading edge of this ‘web 2.0′ technology, irrespective of which generation we come from (and that includes all the speakers at the conference) are already using these tools in our day to day working lives. We use blogs and online news sites as information feeds and Wikipedia for research. We connect with friends on Facebook, and work colleagues using LinkedIn and Xing. We collaborate with wikis and in online workspaces. We use micro-blogging tools like Twitter to connect with our extended network, and as one of the key places to look for the ideas that are cool, interesting, and innovative. We share presentation material with Slideshare and photos with Flickr. For us the lines between friends and work colleagues are already beginning to blur and we are in contact with people all over the World on a regular basis. If we work for a company where the IT department has locked down what operates inside the firewall and restricted access to Facebook or Twitter, it doesn’t really bother us that much. We’ve got an iPhone or a Blackberry in our pocket, and we can still get at what we need.

The smart organizations are the ones that realize the power that these kinds of connections and collaboration tools can provide. Rather than putting up roadblocks, they are encouraging adoption of the tools to reduce costs, increase efficiency and make their teams work more effectively. They can see how they can liberate new ideas and get some real ROI. However, they also realize that an organization’s culture may need to change to allow this this kind of team working and cross collaboration to happen. You’ll hear plenty of anecdotes and case studies at the conference, but in my next post I will be offering some examples of banks and financial institutions that are already seeing the benefits of social media tools, as well as highlighting some of the information sources that you should be watching for ideas.

Wish I’d said that!

David’s post is part of the content being published on the SOMESSO blog that connects with the latest SOMESSO conference in Zurich, Switzerland, taking place today and tomorrow.

Shel and I discuss David Terrar’s post in a wide-ranging conversation on behaviours and organizations – which includes discussion on Olivier Blanchard’s post on Becoming P2P: Principal characteristics of the new Social Business – in today’s episode 497 of the FIR podcast that will be published tonight GMT.

Neville Hobson

Social Strategist, Communicator, Writer, and Podcaster with a curiosity for tech and how people use it. Believer in an Internet for everyone. Early adopter (and leaver) and experimenter with social media. Occasional test pilot of shiny new objects. Avid tea drinker.

  1. David Terrar

    Thanks for your kind words and quoting such a big extract. The SOMESSO conference went down realy well with some good speakers, great conversations and discussion. The IT department lockdown of certain “consumer” services was beautifully and ironically demonstrated when Deborah Hudson was explaining how Zurich Financial Services have started to use Social media. She tried to show the YouTube video their CEO Jim Schiro made to spread the word, but it was blocked by the Swiss Re firewall – doh! (SOMESSO used Swiss Re’s Centre for Global Dialogue – an absolutely superb conference facility with great architecture, fantastic meeting spaces, and top quality food).

    However, even though Swiss Re’s IT has some of the typical conservative approach, the company has a realy excellent story on use of social media for collaboraion and communication internally. I’ll be blogging the cae study shortly.

  2. Arjen Strijker

    Hi Neville, thanks for that summary. We have found in the 2 days at that every delegate from a bank or financial firm (at least those who were at the conference and/or masterclass, like , , , and others) seemed highly interested in the topic – not just from a corporate standing point, but also real, personal interest.

    However, as the banking & financial service industries are highly conservative ones the corporate delegates were not easily convinced about using any collaboration tools at all. Questions such as “I’m working in a bank and we even need to watch out what we throw in the paper bin – it might be that someone finds it in the trash once it leaves the company” were asked. I think that although this is an exaggerated reaction, it is one that needs to be examined carefully to find out what’s really going on. The underlying issue is that most corporate cultures in banks are highly resistant to change. People prefer to hang on to what they know and the banking industry has been doing things the same way for ages. Therefore – in my view – they will keep on throwing excuses like the one mentioned above until there is “no escape” possible anymore in adopting social media tools due to peer pressure and due to internal “best practice” analysis outcomes.

    One short paragraph on “best practices”: in my view companies that want to keep ahead of their competition should forget any form of measuring “best practices”, because when such reports are finished your competition is mostly already implementing the next thing – leaving you far behind. To stay competitive companies should focus on innovation and allow some degree of a bit more (participate in a conversation, not avoid it). This would accelerate any company’s understanding and adoption of new initiatives, which can be used as a competitive advantage. Both the people at the global headquarters of and (= Farmers Insurance in the U.S.) made a strong start with this already. *Swiss Re hosted this year’s SOMESSO Zurich and Zurich Insurance was one of the opening keynotes.

    Now, to answer who the smart organizations are: I believe those organizations out there who are currently exploring social media have an advantage to those who do not (we are in a phase that most finance / financial services companies are exploring). However, they should be careful not to get stuck in this “obtaining information” phase and start another “best practice” activity to benchmark themselves with competition first. Social media is here to stay – and for the ones who do understand that (although new) social media allows any collaboration with your existing community / end users / clients / customers it provides beneficial, low-cost opportunities.

    Arjen Strijker Founder

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