May 31, 2012

IBM CEO Report: Here Come the Humans

We wanted to hire ‘workers,’ but ‘human beings’ show up. Social media is driving that.
– Arkadi Kuhlmann, Founder, ING Direct USA (from the IBM report)

Good news: this year’s IBM CEO Study ranked people (human capital) as the most important source of sustained economic value. There may be something to this social technology revolution after all!

CEOs have a new strategy in the unending war for talent. They are creating more open and collaborative cultures — encouraging employees to connect, learn from each other and thrive in a world of rapid change. Collaboration is the number-one trait CEOs are seeking in their employees, with 75 percent of CEOs calling it critical.

According to the report, CEOs point to four characteristics for employees: being collaborative, communicative, creative and flexible.

Of course, this means that the CEOs understand the need to create the environment to enable those characteristics to flourish. In many cases CEOs in the report actually indicated changing the organization structure to better accommodate the need for improved flow of information. The result has been the emergence of collaborative environments in which employees are encouraged to “speak up, exercise personal initiative, connect with fellow collaborators, and innovate.”

Enabling Change 

We need to mobilize our collective brain power for innovation.
President and CEO, Consumer Products, Canada (from the IBM report)

The move to a more open and collaborative culture for many organizations requires a considerable shift in attitudes and behaviors. This is no small factor, and the change generally must come from the top down. The report talks about the degree to which successful companies – “outperformers”, or organizations that surpass industry peers in terms of revenue growth and profitability – have a greater ability to change and adapt to the evolution of their environment.

We see this in the adoption of Convo, and it has been referenced here often: Collaboration and openness imply a new way of working, thinking and behaving. Social business networks are an important, even a primary, means to that end, necessary but not sufficient in achieving greater degrees of performance and innovation. A tool like Convo is like the treadmill or exercise cycle you put in your basement to get in shape: a very useful devise, but unless you change behavior and actually incorporate the machine into your regular routine, the results will be less than impressive.

Stepping Toward Openness

How do you unleash the innovative power of the people who deal with your customers every day?
– CEO, Insurance, United Kingdom (from the IBM report)

There’s an old adage that it’s easier to act your way into thinking then to think your way into acting. This has some validity when woking on changing culture, attitudes and behaviors. This is not to imply that you start the journey to openness without a plan, but based on experience, and show we’ve seen successful networks get started, we often recommend starting the journey by enabling a small project or workgroup with a social environment like Convo.

The report itself recommends the use of platforms like Convo to improve openness:

Pursue social collaboration technologies. Ensure employees can quickly find needed expertise and have the means to engage the collective intelligence of the organization. Capture experts’ knowledge in searchable repositories to share more broadly and enable social learning.

It takes less than a minute to get started, and because of the intuitive interface, the team can be up and running in very little time. Whether you apply goals and metrics may depend on your organization, but we’d suggest adding as few constraints as possible, because an overly-managed community can be less open and defeat its very purpose.

The IBM report also offers another important suggestion:

Devise incentives that foster collaboration. Employees typically understand the organizational value of collaboration; be sure they’re clear on how it benefits them individually. Capitalize on social collaboration’s intrinsic motivators, such as visibility and reputation, competitive spirit and working toward a shared goal.

Today’s CEOs are thinking ahead, thinking about innovation, thinking about openness. (Let’s hope they’re not trying to think their way into acting.) It’s clear that the focus is on making connections within their organizations. The vision includes “turning the workforce into a market intelligence network”, and enabling employees to act on their own ideas but also collaborate with their colleagues, partners and even customers to drive innovation and value.

These are good times, where human capital – you! – are increasingly valued and enabled. It’s also a good time to get started with the most engaging social business network available, Convo. It’s time to act!

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