The problem facing business is simple in concept yet complex in imlementation.
I am studying and researching what it means to be a truly social business - not a business that adds a social marketing element, but one that acts as a facilitator, one that doesn't sit behind a brand but one that brings suppliers, stakeholders, customers inside the business process.
The immediate problem is that we are attempting to change a traditional business model into a social model more reflective of our times. It is shoehorning a networked, connected, flat, co-creation model into a traditionally hierarchical, complex, valued added profit model. In my early research it is that there are too choices and indeed three types of social business
- Social business in terms of the company being part of the surrounding community. Social in terms of creating a better society. I love these wonderful companies which I call societal businesses.
- Social business in terms of adding social media to a traditional structure and one that is starting to emerge...
- Social business that is about creating value based on values, a social business that acts as a network and facilitator between an idea being created (by a customer, by the company, by a supplier) and the end user.
This latter model is thinking about technology not as a traditional investment in replacing something that they used to do....but thinking about technology as an enabler to new social facilitation.
So as many of you know, the research is looking at the emerging world of 3D printing. If we take the above 3 types of business then you may see
- Social business introducing schools to this technology, or working with Universities to develop the capability. Even developing products for charitable purposes.
- The second type of social business mentioned above might run a competition for a new design to be printed out and sold.
- The third type though is thinking differently. Not what the technology can do for their business BUT what the technology can do to create a social business model. They are using it to produce customised products, to devolve production to customers etc
People say to me "Yes, but it will never catch on....no one wants to print out their own products..they are too costly at the moment"
I smile...because that is what people said about the personal computer...it is only a matter of time before the process of creating products and services changes. Look at how the web opened up the door for small business retail, look at how e-readers are changing the footfall in book stores....
Social business is about developing a business model which is profitable but which includes the customer as part of the ideas process, manufacture and even selling the product.
Social business is not about opening the doors to customer feedback...it is about inviting customers in to feedforward...
Social business is not about conversations for conversation sake...it is about conversations about creating value together.
Would love to hear your thoughts, would love to hear about how you are creating a truly social business?