October 5, 2014

Business view: From weak social networks to real social system power

English Content



A system is a great thing. I love to think in systems. Systems can be small – for example a coffee-machine. You put water and coffee-powder in. Some seconds later fresh coffee comes out. Systems can be huge – the weather is a system too. Well there are many more inputs than a coffee machine needs, but there is also an output – rain, sunshine, fog, storm.

Companies are a system too. There is a lot of input (customer demands, markets, raw material etc). Then the company is adding value (hopefully…). The output of the company is a great product or service that customers can buy. If the customer does not buy the stuff, the system dies and will be replaced by another system. Simple but true this theory is.

Let´s stay with the business perspective. There is a big challenge upcoming for every business: The world changes faster than ever, driven by global networks and global communication. The result is a business environment that is something like a brain. So companies now need to connect with that brain. That is very difficult if your company is set up as hierarchical machine. Or even worse: If your company is set up as a command-and-control like “stone”. This structure cannot be connected with a brain – neither on input- nor on output-side.

Männer im ZahnradSo the question is – how can you transform your machine-like setup of your company into a vibrating brain-like network, which is able to react very fast to “input” from the fast-changing markets and build output, that makes your connected customers cheer out loud?

So your company is a machine, and this is as said a system. Your company is made of your associates, managers, processes, guidelines, organization and technology. Maybe there are some more parts of the machine, but these are the main building blocks. And the oil for this machine is communication – restrictive top-down, with the function of oil where needed on the machine and hidden in millions of emails and documents on restricted and thus useless (internal!) shares.

In order to change and improve things, for the last 10 years more and more companies invested a lot of money in social networks to improve their internal collaboration. Companies tried to achieve more transparency and very often failed. They asked for internal crowd sourcing, but internal structures blocked good ideas. Today it seems that technology won´t help alone.


Business TechnologyLet´s have a again a look at the system. IT technology is only one out of six building blocks of your company. You need to transform the other five building blocks too; otherwise the power of the social network just has no chance to raise. As we talk of the six building blocks associates, managers, guidelines, organization, processes and IT – you now understand, why it is so hard and challenging to become a real social, connected company. Because you need to address all the other parts, too. We talk of an operation on the open heart.

So what are the advantages in case you achieve to transform your company into a modern, networked and social organization? The biggest advantage: Your company will survive. Don´t laugh at me – heavyweights like Kodak and Nokia did not transform and now they are gone – in no time!

But there are much more advantages of becoming a connected company: Associates with responsibilities will show a greater engagement. Transparent communication enables transparent knowledge access. Self-organizing teams speed up collaboration. And guidelines which foster trust shorten decision times. Isn´t that a terrific place to work at? Yes! So start today to build your social system and release the power of networks in your company.

  •' Reply

    Absolutely agree. Even though I have a different point of view regarding inputs, boundaries, the outcome – the message – is mine too: acompany is a system, and what a system! there are not only 6 screws to tune in order to move the system. If we want to change (do we really want to?) our organization so to be successfull tomorrow too (or to survive), we need to change all building blocks, incl. leadership style and mindset. Mindset first of the leadership team, but then of all peers within our team (our company)! Thx for the article.

    • Reply

      Dear Hanno,
      thanks for your feedback.
      Indeed the 6 building blocks are only the main ones. The big screws. There are many more! My understanding is, that those 6 big screws build the basic system. Did I forgot one?
      The need for change needs a very clear signal and will from the top-management. Not necessarily from the first second – but if social activities grow in your company, leaders should act. A few months ago I blogged about those signals inside the company, see here.
      Best regards