The Social Organization

Anthony J. Bradley & Mark P. McDonald

Published by

Harvard Business Review Press





Reviewed by

Danny Williams MBCS CITP, Business Industry Architect & Technical Staff Member, IBM


8 out of 10

There is a common misconception that, if you deploy a social business platform, your customers, partners and employees will magically start collaborating more effectively. Build it and they will come does not apply to social business. Like any other initiative it requires rigorous planning and execution for it to be successful.

Bradley and McDonald recommend a methodical approach that cycles through three stages: purpose, launch and guide.

There is no point in embarking on a collaboration initiative if you don't have a clear purpose - what you would like the community to achieve through the collaboration. Therefore take the time to define a clear purpose with measurable outcomes - just like any other well-thought-through business plan.

You can't force people to collaborate so the next step is vital: a committed marketing initiative to drive involvement in the community. In this launch phase you have to ensure that you provide an appropriate experience where the environment enables people to collaborate effectively.

Arguably you only get one chance at launching a community, and badly designed tools and processes will put people off coming back. So you have to get it right first time.

You have to identify who you would like to collaborate - who will join the community. If you have any interest in social media and collaboration you will understand the importance of identifying key influencers who others respect.

If you've read The Tipping Point (Malcolm Gladwell), you will appreciate that you can't predict or force a change, but you can do everything in your power to create the right conditions.

Communities are self-forming and self-governing, so don't think that you can tell the members what to do. Certainly as a community manager you have a guiding role, but if you interfere in the collaboration you can expect the community members to be unimpressed. Certainly remind them of the purpose and facilitate gently, but you have to trust the community to find their own way.

According to the book's dust jacket, Bradley and McDonald are ‘leading experts in the area of social media at Gartner’. They use a number of examples to illustrate good and bad practice throughout the book.

They rely heavily on one case study with CEMEX, which did make me wonder just how much experience they really have in this area. I would have trusted in their expertise a little more, if they had hands-on experience of improving collaboration within organisations.

What Bradley and McDonald write is entirely common sense, but all too often, common sense isn't always common practice. So if you are planning to launch a collaboration initiative, have a quick read of this book to make sure you have thought through everything you need to do and get it right first time.

Further information: Harvard Business Review Press

December 2012