We need social networks that disrupt!

by Cai Kjaer

Social networks have always existed in one form or another, but the rise of social media platforms has been able to enable the creation and sustainability of these on a massive global scale.

Initially, companies – driven by ROI considerations – seemed reluctant to embrace these tools inside the firewall, but times have changed. This is clearly evidenced by a rapid growth in the adoption of enterprise social network tools as reported by IBM’s Center for Applied Insights in their report Raising the Game that was published in August 2014. Based on a survey with nearly 1,200 decision makers the researchers found that enterprise social platforms in the period from 2012 to 2014 had moved from piloting to adoption.

It appears that executives are realising that ‘social’ is not about goofing around the water cooler, but is ultimately all about organisational performance. The growth of the enterprise social software market is another sign. From about USD$1b in 2010 it is expected to grow to USD$8b in 2019. If it didn’t deliver tangible benefits companies wouldn’t invest.

The increasing importance of networks to deliver business outcomes is now also being addressed by well-known management experts. Harvard Professor John Kotter who made Organisational Change a must-do, outlines in his most recent book XLR8 (pronounced ‘Accelerate’) how organisations need to adopt a ‘Dual Operating System’. According to Kotter, hierarchies are extremely good at doing known things over and over again, but are very poor at implementing new practices. Networks on the other hand play a critical role in getting new practices implemented.

We need these social networks to disrupt hierarchies and structures that are so dominant in our organisations. Whether or not networks can completely eliminate hierarchies is yet to be seen, but Zappos is certainly giving it a go. In the meantime we need to create organisations where hierarchies and networks will co-exist.

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