Social Business School: Harvard Points The Way

Social business, the birth of a new industry? I called it in September 2009 and since then social business has risen like a star. Sure, it has a long way to go before it becomes pervasive, but watching Harvard Business School transform itself into a Social Business School is surely a major milestone on the industry’s journey.

If you’ve read my submission to the Australian Federal Government on Entrepreneurism and Venture Capital, you’ll know I’m a huge fan of immersion-style, experiential learning. One of my key tenets is to call for the establishment of a Conservatorium of Entrepreneurship. Harvard is already moving down this path, as this article in Fast Company highlights. Well worth a read.

How To Shape Behavior Through Persuasive Design

Whether you are designing a school cafeteria menu to more healthily “shape” a group of obesity-prone schoolchildren or are formulating the strategy for a multinational, persuasive techniques and behavioral design can go a long way towards assisting you achieve optimal goals.

Here are two videos that are well worth watching on this fascinating area. The first, a TedX talk by Simon Sinek, focuses on the cognitive elements. The second, by Rob Girling, delves into the design side in more depth. Enjoy!



Asana: One Truth, Many Contexts – Revolutionizing Enterprise Software

I’ve spent many years in the wilderness that is Enterprise Software: from attempting to wake up SAP, to mistepping with Jive; from clucking over Bantam to writing Yammer’s first partnership agreement. In all these attempts to connect the corporate landscape I’ve always felt something was lacking. At first I attributed this to the fun, human factor, but even then I thought this wasn’t quite it.

Take a look at how so many people these days interact in their personal lives – for some, many in fact, Facebook is almost permanently open. They tap into the newsfeed in real time, sharing thoughts, conversing with friends and colleagues. Yet their work lives are seldom as enriched. They often have no clear picture of what is happening on their team, yet alone across their department or division, and as for the company proper – forget it.

And yet, finally, I believe my trek through the corporate desert may finally be bearing fruit. I believe I’ve seen the mother of all oases. Take a look through the lens of my telescope below and tell me – is this a mirage or has one of the co-founders of Facebook cracked it. Let me introduce you to your new best friend, both personal and corporate: your single source of truth – always open, always updated, always….ASANA:

Globalizing Game Mechanics, Foursquare At A Time

At Seggr, we are both huge fans of game mechanics and the way in which Foursquare has embraced  their uncanny ability to tap into our deepest human needs and grow community. As the Foursquare user community explodes globally, so too are we finding that brands are starting to recognize Foursquare as a thought leader in bringing them deeper engagement via the use of funware.

Jennifer Van Grove has captured the essence of the way in which Foursquare is leading the charge in this arena. Her Mashable post is titled 5 Ways Foursquare is Changing the World, and in it she sets out how this location-based service is playing out in the real world.

The five key points that she makes are:

1. Social Media as Currency –  customer loyalty, as she points out, is stuck ina pre-digital plastic quagmire of cards and anachronistic point tallying. However, Forsquare’s check-in model is leading to social media being treated as a currency and we predict a major shake up of loyalty systems.

2.  Gaming social activity –  thanks to Foursquare, Twitters initial “what are you doing” has morphed into “who has the most interesting life“.  Foursquare mandates that you check into physical places, which means that your friends can be notified not only what you are doing, but also where you are doing it. Exponentially,  this maps out into significant benefits for those who participate as well as the economy as a whole and for individual businesses.

3.  Localized brand loyalty –  Jennifer points out that Foursquare is redefining what it means to be a regular:

…mayor-only rewards are cropping up everywhere Foursquare is played (which is now nearly everywhere) and they’re creating customer loyalty battles that are good for regulars and great for businesses…. Foursquare has found a way to make being a regular at your favorite pizza joint mean something tangible.

4. Personalizing place –  businesses are able to engage with their ” socially-active customers” at a much deeper level through services like Foursquare, while also using this engagement as a way to market themselves more widely. As Jennifer points out this two-way street builds community “on a whole new level”. Expect to see a healthy growth curve over the next 18 months in the number of people who can be defined as being socially-active. Consider as a benchmark where we were at in this respect circa mid 2007 and you’ll see how more social, more transparent people have already become.

5.   Verticalized game mechanics –  universities should all see themselves as ” more than classrooms and buildings…(as) an interconnected community of people, ideas and experiences, and (and should) actively (pursue) ways to enhance those connections.”

Jennifer is quoting (above) Perry Hewitt, Harvard University’s Director of Digital Communications. They have pulled a campus-based game based on Foursquare as a way to build connections between students, staff and other members of the broader Harvard community.

It looks like 2010 will be the year that game mechanics  is elevated beyond being seen as purely consumer-based gimmickry.

The Intention Web: Social Business Designed

Jeremiah Owyang from the Altimeter Group explains the Intention Web as being about information that provides explicit predictions of who will do what next, although it’s not happened yet.

From his perspective, this forward-looking or anticipation network will provide three unique opportunities:

1.People can now use their social relationships that have similar goals or events on a calendar and improve their experience

2. They can also identify who in their social circles are most likely going where, increasing their knowledge of top events

3. This provides businesses with the ability to listen to provide highly contextualized offerings and experiences for those explicitly stating their intents.

As enterprise increasingly integrates social business design principles, I expect them to formulate strategies for tapping into the growing intention network. These strategies will include ways to identify true intent, reward those who broadcast their intent and generally make  this data actionable.

Jeremiah has provided a list of intention enabled sites including:

*  43 Things, a wish list; and

* Plancast, which allows users to publish their future plans.

I want to talk about another intention enabled site called Sponty.  Boston based, the company uses the tagline ‘be hangoutable’ and bills itself as allowing users to create and discover social activity feeds around them. Users create topical feeds that tell others about fun things happening around town, like indie music and hipster parties.

According to co-founder, Mahmoud Arram, Sponty’s premise is that while location is important, the type of the activity and which of your friends are going is the determining factor whether to go to something. Sponty let’s people broadcast their social intentions so that their friends can join them.

He believes the power is in user created topical event feeds. People may be able to tweet events, but tweets are not actionable; in the sense that you cannot click “I’m down” on a tweet to let the organizer/friend know that you’re going and see who else is going.

Mahmoud sees Sponty as being laser focused on events. “Think of it as real-time intentions, rather than real-time statuses”.

He agrees that game mechanics is an essential element and they are exploring ways to build an incentive system for people to share and contribute their topical event feeds. Currently, the top users feel rewarded when they help people go out and discover an event they probably would not have known about otherwise.

Using Twitter as an analogy and stepping back in time 12 to 18 months, it is not hard to see the power within the intention web. Especially for businesses who are able to tap into what will be a growing arena in 2010.

Social business design: Humanizing the company at every turn

Kara Swisher has done a fun interview with Ford’s social go to guy, Scott Monty, in which he does his impersonation of Bill Cosby’s cocaine skit:

Cosby: I said to a guy, “Tell me, what is it about cocaine that makes it so wonderful,” and he said, “Because it intensifies your personality.” I said, “Yes, but what if you’re an asshole?”

Scott’s message is that “social media is the cocaine of the communications industry“. If you have crappy products, if your company behaves like an ahole…people are going to find out about it way quicker through social media. The glass half full stance does point to the same holding true for great products and companies too.

It’s a memorable analogy, but the key take out for me from this interview is Scott’s comment that for Ford, “social media is absolutely key to everything we are doing“.

Take advertising, for example, Ford has moved to using 15 second spots with real people telling their stories. “Advertising is social mediaesque“.

Scott also essentially defined social business design: Its about humanizing the company at every turn, whether in HR, product development, customer service, PR or other areas.