Friday, March 19, 2010

A New Kind of Collaboration

What I am going to say today may seem a little out of character. (Blame it on the weather and being cooped up inside too long.) Here goes:

Corporate America needs to get with it and more effectively use social media.

Okay, I can hear you grumbling, “What is she talking about?” I’m talking about being able to reach the masses. I’m talking about building mindshare. I’m talking about leveraging the knowledge of both employees and clients, and competitor’s clients, and even people who don’t yet know they will be your client someday, to help you build a better product, market more effectively, and even reach new markets.

In his bestselling book The Wisdom of Crowds, James Surowiecki describes a new kind of collaboration – one where a crowd's "collective intelligence" will produce better outcomes than a small group of experts.

Consider this proof point:

SRMedia Digital Publishing recently ran their sixth annual Beat the Crowd Oscar prediction contest. Of the 318 participants, only 30 had more correct predictions that the collective wisdom of the crowd. (I scored a measly 11 out of 24.) The collective group correctly predicted 17 out of 24 Oscar winners. Interesting, right?

How should companies reach new constituents and build their collectives? One tool they need to add to their kit bag is social media.

We can all find many examples of small companies and companies that grew up on the internet that are very effectively leveraging social media. After all, they have to be nimble and adaptive to survive. But does this really apply to big corporations?

I will admit that as a marketing executive in a big corporation I would have argued that the people who buy things like say – mainframes – aren’t in the blogosphere. But is that really true? This may sound almost blasphemous coming from someone who practically bleeds blue, but this blogging/twittering/linked-in convert is predicting that if large corporations don’t start effectively leveraging social media, soon they will be left in the dust. Why? Because the people who are going to buy their products five years from now will have formed their collectives elsewhere.

What do you think about collaboration via social media? What do you think about the wisdom of the collective? Do you have an example of where this is working effectively?

4 comments:

vasundhar said...

Colette,
I liked reading your blog.

Since we are talking of collaboration,I Read a book by Indian Author Chetan Bhagat, this is about education system in one of the elite educational institutions(Fiction). He calls "Co-operate to dominate !"

And I am sure you must be knowing our Star Debbe Kennedy's book PUTTING OUR DIFFERENCES TO WORK deals with complimenting differences to bring change significantly.

I guess collaborating is always there, but with Social media we are able to scale beyond imagination.

I guess we need more cases in real scenario to validate and present.
In my opinion its one more special case of RDE.

Anonymous said...

Basically Corporate America is scared sugarless of social media and social networks. Hence the draconian prohibition of using the company's network for that purpose. However, you cannot stop progress in its various forms, so the iPhone mostly seems to be used at work for...checking out on Facebook, LinkedIn, etc. How ironic. Even the North Koran Government cannot stop its people from using Chinese networks of communications, which although have certain restrictions...
Well, in certain countries women cannot even have an identity card or be allowed to drive...
How are our collectives correcting those anomalies?

Dave E said...

That 'blue' company you referred to is very actively engaged in social computing, internally to encourage the growth of collective knowledge and interaction and externally to show the benefits that can be gained by 'sharing'. It doesn't harm either that that same company has a number of very successful products that can be used to 'enable' social computing both inside and outside of the firewall.

I think the danger with 'social media' marketing is the danger that it comes across as just another form of marketing. When potential customers see such efforts as being driven by the corporation, rather than the individuals that make up that entity, then there's a tendency to see it as just another corporation jumping onto the band wagon.

So I think there are a couple of things going on here. Using social computing to enable the growth of networks of people that sharee knowledge. The result being greater innovation and even employees feeling that they are more a 'part of the company, rather than just another body that is there to do a job.

The other thing is the marketing aspect. Using social network to get you message out. I think that in this area corporations need to tread warily. Let the people (the employees) do the talking and encourage real interaction, not just a one way marketing pitch.

Colette said...

Vasundhar, thanks for the book recommendations.

Anonymous, I do think there is an element of fear here -- some for good reason. It's tough to balance controlling the information that gets out with the need to reach you audience. After all, companies do need to protect IP, and want to control the messaging aroudn their products. And, of course, there's the never-ending need to have everything reviewed by corporate lawyers.

Dave E, yes, IBM does indeed have some top-notch products that enable social media. Thank you for pointing that out. I'm not sure I agree with your distinction between social networks to share knowledge and social networking to get the message out. Understand that just a year ago I would have been right in your corner. On the outside things look a little different. What I see are social networks that share knowledge becoming the marketing message. It feeds on itself.