5×5: Implications of Social Intelligence

by | Friday, November 15th, 2013

It’s Friday, and that means RE:INVENTION’s Leadership team is discussing another hot topic in our weekly blog feature, 5×5. New to our blog? Every Friday our team reviews and debates a controversial news article or research report.

UP THIS WEEK: Have Social Intelligence Tools Sparked a Revolution?

Social media and new digital technologies have empowered individuals — making them more capable than ever to organize themselves, bypass authority figures, and rise up against the status quo. An angry crowd can organize, escalate, and go viral faster than ever before. People can start social movements and protests on Facebook. Will big businesses lose some or all of their authority as consumers gain power through collaborative social intelligent forces? In this week’s 5×5, RE:INVENTION team analyzes the implications of social intelligence on governments and big corporations.

This Week’s Reference Articles:

• “Social Power and the Coming Corporate Revolution“, Forbes
• “From Phoenecia to Hayek to the Cloud“, a Wall Street Journal op-ed from Matt Ridley

THIS WEEK’S QUESTION

What are the corporate and political implications of the rising potential for consumers’ ‘viral consensuses’ through the use of digital social intelligence tools and communication?

OUR TEAM’S RESPONSES

Kirsten Osolind (“Change Catalyst”)

Revolution or evolution? You can trace the origins of “collective intelligence” to ancient religious texts and military maneuvers. Byzantine emperor Justinian I deployed monks to China in the 6th century to learn the art of making silk. Chinese General Sun Tsu’s scrolls (circa 500 BC) heralded the value of collaboration and competitive intel. An angry mob organized and stormed the Bastille, sparking the French Revolution.

Social media may have leveled the playing field, giving us the richest source of data in the world’s history. What’s often missing these days is actual intelligence. Digging deeper…translating data and knowledge into actionable insights and better business decisions. While many corporations use social media to monitor chatter and broadcast brand messages, few are using social media effectively for customer service. And the vast majority are not cultivating social intelligence to detect emerging opportunities, adapt strategy, and drive disruptive innovation.

Regardless of your industry — from consumer goods and retail to financial services and medical devices — you can use digital social intelligence tools and the collective wisdom of the crowd to curate and refine ideas faster and more effectively than ever before.

…to track changing market trends, customer sentiments, and unmet market needs
…to stay twelve steps ahead of your competition
…to identify consumer points of market entry and paths to purchase
…to develop, test and tailor new products or services
…to address customer service issues in real time
…to expedite regulatory approval
…to help with market expansion
…to minimize the risk of an investment decision being wrong
…to drive change and create the future, rather than being reactive

There are literally hundreds of social intelligence software apps to choose from like Spigit, Brightidea, Chatter, Yammer, Jive, along with public platforms like Facebook and Twitter, Linkedin, CRM systems, help desks, customer service platforms, online message boards, even employee social intranets can also be used creatively to mine data to improve business performance.

Social intelligence can help your company make better decisions and quicker, more agile moves. If Sun Tsu were alive today, he’d be busy crowdsourcing his next book, planning a watershed digital moment to spark the next Chinese civil revolution, and plotting a creative way to collaborate with Seth Godin online.

On a final note, it is rarely in the best interest of a corporation (or government) to crush dissent. Research suggests that dissent drives innovation.

Joe Barrus (“The Technologist”)

As the second article points out, social collaboration became a natural behavior that improved modern humans’ ability to survive and thrive.  So, for modern humans, social collaboration is a natural behavior.  However, as populations grew, the ability to command order began to degrade at scale and so new forms of authoritarian control emerged that impeded upon our ability to govern ourselves through social collaboration.  We only have to look at the failure of pure democracies to see the evidence of that.

As usual, technology has evolved to solve scaling issues that has re-enabled the natural order of things to operate at scale.  This is a key enabler to innovation and disruption.  Technology solves the scaling problem and allows natural human behaviors to drive change at scale.  It is this dynamic that drove changes in the music industry for consumers to buy songs individually rather than as a collection tapping into the natural way humans engage with music.  Rather than seeing the death of the industry, we are seeing a resurgence as growth has finally started moving positively since its disruption.  The demand for individual songs was still there (just like it was when we bought 45’s long ago) only the ability to recapture the commercial market was missing.  That took some time to overcome since the change was driven from the bottom through a revolution but ultimately they figured it out.

This raises a significant point.  What if you can tap into that same dynamic to design and drive change from the top rather than react to a revolution?  What if you can keep the consumer loyalty and trust as you transform your market rather than trying to re-earn that after disenfranchising them?  Absolutely companies must be able to react quickly.  Netflix is a great case study of a company that made a mistake and received a huge consumer backlash but who was able to respond to that with different models quickly so that they were able to retain that loyalty and trust for many of their customers.  The key here is speed to enact change.

Companies can’t be reactive, they need to find ways to tap into that consumer base and allow consumers to be part of not just defining direction for change but also to be part of designing and implementing the change through crowdsourcing techniques.  What better way to retain and build trust and loyalty with your customers than to allow them to share in a sense of ownership and pride in the solution?  These days you don’t have a choice.  If you don’t keep your customers engaged end-to-end, you not only run a higher risk of no longer meeting your customer’s needs but you also run a higher risk of customer backlash that can be devastating!

The idea behind social collaboration as a method to discover consumer demand and design consumer solutions is that by tapping into the aggregate knowledge of the crowd and letting them collaborate to come to a conclusion is that the conclusions reached by the crowd are often just as accurate or more accurate than any group of analysts can achieve in isolation in a back room.  And they can reach those conclusions much faster!  So, in a new world where the technological rate of change is accelerating and windows of opportunities are getting shorter, the survivors will be those who can successfully engage their customers through social collaboration techniques end-to-end throughout the product development lifecycle.

From ideation solutions that drive and develop new ideas to social product development sites that have consumers help design and implement new products to highly interactive social sites where corporate representatives are open, transparent and highly engaged in conversations to receive feedback from consumers as products are released will become the norm for successful companies of the future.

This is not to say that this will be easy.  Any social site needs to address the impact of Echo Chambers  that can drive out dissent; an essential ingredient to successful socially driven outcomes.  Solutions to address this are not easy to achieve but companies can easily become mis-directed if they end up following direction coming out of an echo chamber regardless of whether that feedback is negative or positive.  So there are some risks to this changing dynamic as we move forward to avoid allowing ourselves to change direction based on a few loud voices rather than from true aggregate knowledge and sentiment of the crowd that is meaningful to us.

Dennis Jarvis (“The Marketeer”)

The use of social intelligence to rally a call to action has been the norm across the ages.  Just consider the American Revolution and the famous ride of Paul Revere after seeing the message from the tower of the Old North Church in Boston  — “one if by two land, two if by sea” – as he then alerted the patriots that the British were on their way, resulting in the shot heard round the world.  To me, this is aligned with the very principle that David Kirkpatrick reviews in his recent Forbes article, Social Power and the Coming Corporate Revolution, in which he provides and excellent treatise on the impact of social intelligence tools on society and business.  Dilbert also provides us with a more light-hearted view of the new transparency.

I believe human nature is more active than passive.  Social intelligence simply arms us with the tools that feed this tendency on a 24/7 basis.  The growth of mobile devices and tablets has driven this in geometric proportions.  One area specifically of personal interest is the impact of digital intelligence on the medical and health sectors, where consumers are increasingly empowered — in spite of the challenges and bad press that has come with Affordable Healthcare.  There are now more than 40 thousand health-related apps now available.  In 2012 there an estimated 44 million health-related apps downloaded and projected to be 142 million in 2016 (Source: Juniper Research).  Consumers freely and willingly share information on treatments – both in terms of efficacy, side effects and the practitioner performing.  In the end, I believe that consumers, armed with digital social intelligence, will drive the re-invention of health care.

Jorge Barba (“The Culture Guy”)

The ability that social technologies give us to bypass the traditional structure of decision-making will only become stronger as more corporations embrace them. But even so, the element of human nature is pervasive. So, I anticipate that a lot of corporations will still want to have a control of how decisions are made, even though the next generation of workers operate by different set of values, motivations and standards.

Businesses that are founded by the next generation of entrepreneurs will set the new standard on how decision making is made. I would like to know how management innovators like W.L. Gore are adapting to social technologies, for they are the epitome of a leaderless organization, and one that is worthy of being modeled.

I think that is something to watch out for, how and if companies will transition to new ways of working…

Kane (“K-9 Intern”)

In today’s business world, collective intelligen… SQUIRREL!

THE FINAL WORD

Knowledge-sharing is accelerating at a faster rate than ever due to the rapid spread and growing accessibility of social intelligence. It is causing companies to rethink and reinvent their business practices; those that embrace crowd-based wisdom will flourish, while those that reject it will fail.

Curious about how RE:INVENTION can help YOUR company leverage social intelligence to improve business decisions and performance? CLICK HERE to learn more about RE:INVENTION’s Services. And follow us on Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook.

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