Reflections after Social Now: incremental or transformational?

Another year, another invitation to participate in the experts panel at Social Now, another great opportunity to meet smart people and discuss the future of businesses and work. This pretty much sums up the last few days I’ve spent in Lisbon at the event organised by my friend, and “gardener of change”, Ana Neves.

With a unique format, Social Now challenges social tools to demo themselves and show how they would address the challenges of the same fictitious company named Cablinc. The experts panel role is to question vendors from the perspective of business needs & concerns (my role), user experience (Pedro Custódio) and IT (Phil Hill). Through those questions or comments our aim was to help the audience make sense of what was being presented and think through some of the questions they might want to ask in a real vendor discussion.

Experts panel at Social Now 2013 | photo by @retorta_net on Flickr

Experts panel at Social Now 2013 | photo by @retorta_net on Flickr

As I seat at my favourite cafe by the seaside, that familiar place where waiters know how I like my toast, I’m thinking not about the tools themselves but about what we are looking for (in the case of participants whose companies are not yet using social tools to support work) or what we are currently trying to achieve (for folks already working on experiments or implementations of social software for business).

Are we looking to transform the way our companies work and organize, or “just” trying to improve how they get stuff done? (and I write “just” because I’m not making any judgment regarding one goal or the other). Or are companies (or better yet, individuals promoting change inside companies) consciously using the “excuse” of improving work as Trojan mice to introduce pockets of change with a true transformation in mind?

My question arises from the fact that improving work, at an individual and group level, might be very important but not necessarily transformational.

And if we are not aiming to transform them, because I believe that in some cases the end goal is not transformational but implementing incremental small improvements on top of the existing organizational structure and business processes, then are we really preparing organisations for the post normal future that Stowe Boyd shared with us during his inspiring keynote?

As Emanuele Quintarelli suggested in his opening keynote:

The social enterprise is transformational so changes need to consider the power shifts that will occur inside

Shouldn’t we be considered the Erase and rewind approach that he suggested? And are we doing that? Honestly and purposefuly doing that?

Transformation is not easy and is many times a scary concept. It takes time to achieve and especially time (and mental availability) to understand & consider what transformational will mean for each of our businesses or side projects. And with the tsunami of busyness that our organisations are in, we barely have time to thoughtfully consider how to approach the next project we are involved in, let alone pause to rethink how to (re)organise for the fast paced, networked, post normal world that Stowe envisions!

I don’t know about you, but for the last year or so I approach my participation in events or conferences around the topic of enterprise 2.0, social enterprise or social tools for business (whatever you prefer to call it) not as a way to watch keynotes or check the latest case studies or tools, but (mostly) as a golden opportunity to “pick people’s brains” about how they view what they and their companies are doing in this sphere, how they approach change, where do they start (the edges or the core)…

And these encounters always make me wonder: are we aiming high enough? Am I aiming high enough?

2 thoughts on “Reflections after Social Now: incremental or transformational?

  1. Pingback: Links for April 22, 2013 | Andrzej's Links

  2. Pingback: Links for April 24, 2013 | Andrzej's Links

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