CEC Represented at Social Business Summit

Gillian Martin Mehers offers these reflections on the recent Social Business Summit in London. Gillian, CEC Specialty Group Leader, Learning and Leadership, represented CEC at the event about social media.

Gillian Martin Mehers

I was delighted to attend the recent Social Business Summit in London on behalf of CEC and to participate in this wonderfully intimate setting (with perhaps 150 participants) to discuss how the new social media environment will affect this sector (and others). The day started with a couple of excellent and provocative speakers, in particular  JP Rangaswami, Managing Director of BT Design at British Telecom (and who Tweets under Jobsworth, and is well worth following).

I posted a blog about one of the interesting topics of discussion, which was the Facebook-ization of the workplace. I was interested in the notion that using social media can actually save you time (rather than waste it), due to the current revolution in Search that we are witnessing right now, and the implications that has for social and professional networks (like CEC). See my blog post titled “Search Revolution: Social Media Can Save You Time (with a little help from your friends).

An interesting real-life event supported this notion just prior to the Summit when Facebook surpassed Google in the USA in terms of traffic (weekly market share) for the first time the week of 13 March 2010, supporting the notion that people will start to use their social networks as sources and filters for information rather than Google, which simply gives too much information.

Here are a few more reflections from this interesting event:

1. Social Business, did not mean Socially Responsible Business – in fact, I was one of very few from the not-for-profit sector, and from the environmental community, although there was quite a bit of interest. Most participants were from consulting companies, the IT sector and other businesses. There was an small and interesting group from local government in the UK that have put together over 1,000 topical communities of practice and have some great learning from this experience.

2. In addition to the change in search, the keynote talked about how to design institutions to lower transaction costs and make them more effective. This included three points (nicely summarized in a blog post by one of the participants. The three points were to:

  • Design our institutions (or networks I would say) for sharing. (Our keynote speaker gave a great metaphor for this citing the difference between Indian food and British food – Indian food is designed for sharing, so if another few people turn up at dinner time, that poses no problems. However British food is not, and a few extra people can create awkward situations; it isn’t designed for sharing.)
  • Design for scale through participation (this is a neat systems concept – and not unlike what CEC is working to do – a few people should be able to administer the contributions of many – many thousands (they talked at the Summit about millions), and for it to work everyone needs to bring something. They mentioned that Facebook has about 1000 staff members, and over 400 million users, and that it was designed that way. Thought-provoking for CEC.)
  • Design for synchronous and asynchronous, thanks to new technology, things that used to be synchronous (like voice communication) can now be asynchronous, and those that used to be asynchronous in the past (like knowing what people are doing) can now be synchronous (people spoke much about creating Facebook like environments in workplaces, more in next point). 

3.  It was interesting to hear how many companies now are creating internal “Facebook”-like online environments for their teams – this was seen to be essential for social businesses, and helped put people’s tacit knowledge out there for anyone to see and tap into, making horizontal knowledge networks stronger and self-perpetuating (rather than centralized KM services where you have to constantly pull information from people to upload). In this case, every employee (or network member) has their own “wall” where they can answer the question “What are you doing right now”, and share other content. This information is archived online so that it becomes a useful on-demand knowledge resource, not to mention a way for people to share, exchange and become focal points for certain kinds of knowledge within their organizations.

4. Twitter was rampant as a backchannel with excellent quality inputs coming in from the many people live Tweeting. It was also interesting to meet these people in person. Participating and “talking” back and forth during the conference greatly enhanced the learning experience. I live tweeted using the conference hash tag (#sbs2010) and if you are on Twitter and are interested in this field, it is worth going back to the tag to see who was Tweeting during the event, and what they were saying. They undoubtedly picked up the most important ideas and sound bytes, and it is still there for anyone to see.

5. A little known fact about using Twitter - apparently it takes 700-800 “followers” on Twitter to be able to ask questions and always get an answer!


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