Sit next to your audience, listen to them, and give them what they want and need - whether it's yours or not. This is the winning model of a new media company, Amazon. Yes, you heard that correctly. It was one of the two examples I discussed with John Hagel, co-chairman of Deloitte's Center for the Edge recently.
Amazon answered the question "what business are we in?" and used that answer to create value. Ask that question in your business when you're ready to challenge your assumptions and mindset. If you're in technology, telecommunications, media and automotive, you might want to do that sooner rather than later.
You probably worked hard at maximizing efficiencies, yet you're still facing increased performance pressure - and not just to prove the ROI of your social media program. Hagel and his team found that there is a disconnect between productivity improvement and increased asset profitability.
Are you like these companies? Do you?
- treat knowledge as a primary source of economic value? Therefore protect and store it
- have a hard time answering the question "what business am I in"? Where true value resides
Get out more!
The better question is
- how do I insert myself in the knowledge flow? So that my knowledge doesn't depreciate quickly and I gain the benefits of learning while I'm implementing
No matter how great you think your company and team are, there are always smarter people outside its walls. If you want to take performance to new levels, you need to ask
- who are the 20 smartest people we should meet?
- does someone on the team know them?
And go spend time thinking with them. At this point in the conversation I was curious and asked John about the talent thing. Companies spend a great deal of time talking about hiring and retaining the best talent, so why is it that especially technology has such a high turn over rate?
Executives say that talent is their number one priority. So how do you explain the popularity of Dilbert and the stultifying effect on talent and creativity it communicates? It's a matter of focus.
Companies hire the best talent after attracting it and often worry about retaining it, but they rarely, if ever, do anything in the middle - to develop it.
That to me sounds a lot like social media. In conversations with the president of an interactive agency recently, I asked the money question. Where is the money with social media? He was very upfront, tool and asset development. Why? Because that's the easy part.
The hard - and murky - part is that in the middle. Managing the development of the programs from initiatives to insertions in knowledge flows.
More bluntly, companies hire you for your superb skills, then put you on a shelf from there on.
Focus on problem solving
In discussions with communications pros, I often get the question about message control and push. When you feel tempted to ask that, gently step away from the space in front of me. Seriously, can we agree that the best way to provide value is to harness the knowledge of the whole organization?
It's the leaders' job to focus it on problem solving. By the way, a good indication of an organization's culture, is the leaders' ability to delegate work - including decisions.
SAP does that well. They've built communities and a network for developers and partners. This platform contains information on identity and reputation. Plus it is a mechanism for the company to create new teams and plug its own developer teams into them.
Your simple checklist
- be helpful
- help people connect to the right resources
- become a trusted advisor
Nobody cares about your product. That's not as exciting as what developers can do with it.
The trends at the US economy level are pretty clear. Most industries are facing diminishing returns on assets. I thought the report was a bit depressing, and I told John. Then I had to recognize with him that companies will only do something different when hair is on fire.
But, as Hemingway put it, don't ever confuse motion with action. You need to work on the right things. There is a direct correlation between engaging with knowledge flows and measure of success.
Focusing on real work, real performance challenges, will be a good demonstration to the rest of the organization and will allow you to
- identify passionate people
- connect them with social media to plug into knowledge sharing
- focus on real challenges
The best way to go about it in a fairly conservative or laggard organization is to identify the leaders who are most ambitious (for the company) and those who are suffering from the most severe performance challenges.
Do you know how you create and retain value? That's where the money is.
The key to sustained success in this new economic reality is to move from a transactional world to a long-term trust-based world.
© 2006-2009 Valeria Maltoni. All rights reserved.