Social Business Design Cometh


There has been a surge of passionate debate and discussion about “social business” and related topics. Over on the ReadWriteEnterprise, they make a brief attack on ‘management’ and argue that none of this is new – there is lots of interesting reading to follow up if you have the time.

However, I think RWE and others are working from an assumption that everyone who talks about ‘social business’ (or what ever you want to call it) is working from a blank sheet. Nothing could be further from the truth.

For example, there is a great series of posts (essays?) by ThoughtFarmer’s Gordon Ross describing the history of mechanistic versus organic thinking and social intranets. I can see many common influences here, but even Gordon’s reading list is incomplete (and that isn’t a criticism). You can check out more book reviews and past recommended reading lists here and here on my old blog. Again, none of this is exhaustive.

One of my posts that I would like to highlight in particular is Social Business Design as a metaphor. Social Business Design simply puts a name on a particular way of how we go about understanding the world around us, in particular one that is being changed by Internet technologies and social software in our very recent living memory (as opposed to the world that Taylor and others from earlier generation of management inhabited). From this perspective you either believe that some level of change is happening or you don’t. If you believe it, do you want to try and take advantage of this fact? The choice is yours.

If you are interested to be part of this conversation, then join me at Intranets2011 in a few weeks time or engage with others who are passionate about this topic by joining The 2.0 Adoption Council.

BTW The image above is from a set of Connected Company visuals that Dave Gray has released under a creative commons license.

Image credit: Time to re-org the org Dave Gray & Dachis Group CC-BY-2.0

Internet Citizens in Australia – good, bad or ugly? You decide

FREQUENT internet users are less likely to respect the law, serve on a jury or do volunteer work, a study has found.

An Australian National University poll discovered that while regular web surfers were more politically engaged, they also had less deference for traditional societal values.

Only 38 per cent of respondents who logged on at least once a day felt it was important to obey laws and regulations, compared with 51 per cent of less regular cyberspace visitors.

“Frequent internet users were less willing than infrequent internet users to accept that traditional norms of citizenship such as obeying laws and regulations, serving on a jury if called and being active in voluntary organisations are very important in order to be a good citizen,” the report said.

Still, report researcher Juliet Pietsch said the internet wasn’t causing people to withdraw from society.

Interesting to read The Australian’s take on this survey. The Sydney edition of MX, the free metro newspaper, leads with this story on the front page but takes a much more positive view of the same results:

…frequent internet use is actually helping people be more social and caring… 70 per cent of those who used the internet more than once a day felt that to be a good citizen it was important to support people who were worse off than themselves.

I guess the lesson here is to by pass the media and make your own conclusions.

UPDATE: I did read the report for myself. A couple of brief comments:

  • A lot of the benchmarks used in the report are from the US and are 5-10 years old. The Web has changed a lot in that time, so its a shame we don’t have more recent data compare against.
  • I would be interested to know if there are any particular laws and regulations that frequent Internet users don’t think its necessary to obey… also bear in mind, only 51% of infrequent users said it was important to obey – that really puts that point into perspective.
UPDATE 2: More coverage… the SMH copies and pastes from the AAP with the headline, Frequent net users more likely to flout law. However, its sister publication The Age takes the opposite view that the Internet [is] not isolating.

The more I look at the original poll, the more I think the stats are being used and abused a little. However, the poll report itself is also a little unclear – it would be good to get a clearer overview of who and how many people are classified as frequent, occasional and “rarely use” Internet users. My reading of the data is that 16% of people rarely use the Interent and another 16% are only occasional users. So percentage of less or infrequent users is either 16% or 32%, depending on how your define them. So being conservative and assuming ‘infrequent’ includes the rare and occasional groups, then my take on this is:
  • Just under 26% of people who believe it is important to obey laws and regulations are frequent Internet users.
  • A little over 7% of people who believe this are only occasional users.
  • A little over 8% of people, who rarely use the Internet, also think this. 

So even if you lump together people who occasionally and rarely use the Internet, then there are still more frequent than ‘infrequent’ Internet users who believe it is important to obey laws and regulations. Again, the other point is that this poll suggests that only about 41% of people overall think it is important to obey laws and regulations!

What do you think? Can you confirm, comment on or correct my analysis?

What’s happening this coming month for Intranet folks

We’ve got a whole lot of intranet goodness happening this coming month…

Cross posted from the Headshift | Dachis Group Asia Pacific blog. See the original post for details about: 

  • The 2.0 Adoption Council briefing on 10th May;
  • Intranets2011 on 11th & 12th May (I’m presenting); and
  • The Intranet Innovation Awards are open for submissions until 31st May.


Aleks Krotoski: Parallels between old and new social technologies

Tom Standage’s book The Victorian Internet was a revelation when I read it. As a cub academic, one of my colleagues in the psychology department – a woman who’s been doing fascinating research on smart homes – recommended it as an “airport read”. I’m very glad I did (although my book group didn’t find it nearly as fascinating and worthy as I did). It felt like stepping into an Infinite Perspective Machine: the hubris that we experience during the hysteria over a contemporary “new” technology often has parallels with previous periods of innovation. Standage places the Internet and the Web in this context.

Briefly, it describes the social changes that we attribute to the online environment, but as they were observed and practiced during the era of the telegraph. One of the phenomena he examines is love “over the wires”.

“During quiet periods… the online interaction really got going, with stories, jokes and local gossip circulated over the wires. According to one account, ‘stories are told, opinions exchanged, and laughs enjoyed, just as if the participants were sitting together at a club.’” (p. 124)

The Victorian Internet is one of my favourite books too (I can’t quite remember when I read it) and this quote that Aleks Krotoski highlights is one I’ve reflected on a bit over the years. I often mention it in presentations about social technology and society.

  • Firstly, the telegraph users were utilising slack in the system to communicate with each other. Remember that the telegraph was charged by the letter and its primary purpose was to transmit information that was delivered to other people, not as an n-way communication channel.
  • Secondly, despite what people say, even just using morse code people were able to create deep and meaningful relationships ‘online’.
  • Thirdly, the community (and particularly the bosses of the telegraph operators) were worried how this technology was corrupting employees.

If this interests you, also think about the humble postcard as a social technology.

More on Queensland Police Service and their adventures in Social Media

QPS was one of the first public-facing organisations to widely and effectively use social media in crisis communication, and that came to fore at the height of the floods in January, described by Premier Anna Bligh as the worst natural disaster in the state’s history.

The agency’s Facebook page became the defacto one-stop-shop for all of Australia, and for journalists across the different mediums who clambered for minute-by-minute updates.

While some tuned into ABC Radio for news, there was no escaping the QPS Facebook address that was constantly beamed on TV, linked on story pages and repeated on radio.

Great to see Queensland Police Service (QPS) generating interest in the practical and pragmatic use of social media for online engagement with the media, the broader community and during emergencies.

James Klint from QPS was also featured on Gov2Radio yesterday.

Also, worth watching are the Department of Immigration and Citizenship, who also engaging in a useful way through Facebook and on Twitter, where they are represented by their National Communications Manager, Sandi Logan. Like QPS they are engaging pragmatically and using social media as a two-way communication channel, rather than simply broadcasting information.