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2 posts from September 2009

September 16, 2009

What species development can teach social business design

Bottlebrush

From the Australian National Botanic Gardens website:

‘The Bottlebrush is a plant native to Australia and is found all over Australia, from its tropical north to its temperate south.

The flower spikes of bottlebrushes form in the spring and in summer and are made up of hundreds of individual flowers. The flowers can be spectacular and they are irresistible to nectar-feeding birds and insects.

Most species are frost tolerant. Many species can tolerate or thrive in damp conditions. They grow well in a wide variety of soils, except those that are highly alkaline. Plants grown in full sun produce the best flowers.’

The Bottlebrush is one of a kind, one of the things that makes 'down under' a place unlike any other. Culture is often all about coherent differences. Species of distinction are the things that make a place, a person, an organization, an experience, unique and irreplaceable.

Species differentiation is at the heart of the health and wealth we enjoy by having a diversity of life. There’s a similar value in encouraging species differentiation in terms of social business.

Social business design may very well spell the end of the ‘me-too’ brand.

In a social environment, culture becomes a very important point of distinction. As new marketplaces evolve to become ecosystems, the unique DNA of each organization is what sits at the core of its ability to sustain itself as a successful, distinctive, and sustainable life form because when marketplaces act as ecosystems, there’s an inherent value in being different.

Social business design is far less about tools and channels than it is about behaviours and relationships. Within the social sphere where consumers are not ‘mass’ anymore, what matters are durable, strong relationships, relationships that are trusted, and are discreet and niche. Business must engage authentically at a community level as a consequence.

Just as the Bottlebrush’s value has come from how it has adapted to its environment, organizations that have strong definition and strength of purpose can achieve the same.

This is especially the case in a marketplace that’s increasingly being powered by attention and ideas. If attention’s a commercial currency, there is a value in being remarkable, in one way or another, if you can connect to an ecosystem that can support you.

September 03, 2009

Re-tuning the returns

Reputation Statement of Account small

In the last week Social Business Design has been firmly put on the map and legitimized. Social Business Design emerges as a commercial sector in its own right as a couple of key practices reach critical mass, the highly respected Altimeter Group and Headshift/Dachis Group, with a merger announced yesterday between two of the space’s most talented consultancy teams.

Stepping up like this, they represent a venerable array of talent and a commercial sector that’s 'go' for launch.

Social business design sits at the intersection of organizational development and marketing, and can loosely be described as the practice of developing communities of engagement to generate ideas, activities and outputs for commercial and social benefit.

As organizations adopt the principles of social business design, intangible, soft assets like brand value, purpose, human resources, processes and capabilities come to the fore. Social business design is about engendering involvement and it's inbound.

Slightly differently, marketing services and ‘broadcast’ media operate on the basis the message and transaction are the means to the end. Marketing services communicate primarily outbound.

It's interesting to compare the two in the light of the IPA effectiveness awards season that's currently underway. Geoff Russell of the IPA has written about the dangers of ‘hammering costs from suppliers whose "product" is intellectually and creatively based’.

That the marketing communications industry is currently shoring itself up against the imperative of working smarter and reducing costs whilst it's looking at the next best thing in performance effectiveness is interesting. And in the context of social business design, how effective that can be, on a long term sustainable basis, is coming under the hammer.

What makes social business design a ‘must-have’, is that digital technology is ushering totally new states of commercial play. Social business design that involves taking into account trust networks, relationships and behaviours as much as it does tools, channels and transactions, has implications for traditional marketing and media management, which tends to operate much more at arm's length. How will 'broadcast' and outbound marketing effectiveness compare against social business design effectiveness when, in social business design, performance effectiveness has built-in conduits?

Social business design dynamics are that affinity is stronger than structure, the net worth is in the network and the power and potential of network communications increasingly makes much marketing communications activity a tax paid for being unremarkable.

In both social business design and traditional marketing communications, being worthy of attention is the point of power. But if attention and ideas are emerging as commercial currencies, what happens when organizations and people aren't trusted and we’re inclined to give them less attention? There are significant implications for marketing services in there.

The transactional value of digital is that it offers ease and convenience as well as significant opportunities to streamline, but the transactional value of digital is one that it's easy to overplay whilst relationship angles can be neglected and not be fully taken into account.

Over the years, the marketing communications’ industry relationships with clients have frequently been downgraded from partner to supplier. The irony is the transactional use of broadcast media as a tool to deliver commercial growth is being more and more highly scrutinized, something the industry itself says is a barrier to the development of effective ideas.

In contrast with ‘broadcast’ media, social business design harnesses collaboration and involvement. It can create, track and measure dynamic business pulses of activity and momentum and has that as an embedded advantage. The significant stepchange in social marketing this week is that it's getting real; it's moved from being less about media to more about business.

And with that, a crucial part of social business design that will come to the fore is going to be business model design. Businesses, how they're positioned and the propositions they offer will need to be redrawn in the light of the emerging social dimension to business design. Organizational purpose and how to create sustainable social as well as commercial benefit becomes a key requirement. The focus will shift to being about organizing consumers, leading and managing in totally new ways.

So maybe we're on the brink of re-tuning the returns measured and valued as part of social business design. The next time you think about how and where your business value is coming from, you may like to consider how much potential there is in developing collaborations to focus on creative problem-solving, as much as the value that may come from doing more for with less.

The two are utterly inter-linked, and it's a fair bet that the creative potential of inter-relationships in social business will be at the heart of a new organizational effectiveness and a new commercial return.