Role of social business software in delivering innovation

Businesses today operate within a dynamic environment, shaped by variables, such as evolving legislation, globalisation and economic volatility. Disruptive new technologies create new competitors overnight and the only way to get and stay in front is constantly to innovate.

Innovation is sometimes thought of as the product of inspiration – a spark of genius whose timing or vessel cannot be predicted, or a closed process driven by research and development. In fact, creativity can be cultivated as a habit – by anyone – and it is better when it draws on more ideas.

By using a democratic, collaborative approach to innovation – called “open innovation” – companies can nurture an innovative capability and increase their output of quality ideas, thus increasing their chances of bringing about or weathering disruptive market change and gaining a competitive edge.

Stories abound of market-leading companies that do not respond to disruptive changes in their field of play with a more open approach to innovation. Once great, they find themselves unable to recreate the spark, as they are too set in their assumptions to deal properly with shifting realities. Inevitably, they fail.

One example is Eastman Kodak. The inventors and market leaders in photographic film for over a century filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in America at the beginning of 2012. ZDNet noted that while the company had actually made a latter-day innovative breakthrough with the first digital camera, it failed to respond to the erosion of its monopolistic hold over film and film development, brought about by the commoditisation of the digital camera by Sony and others.

Bitter defeat

Others, too, have tasted bitter defeat by not ably responding to change. Nokia, the world’s leading mobile phone producer, lost more than USD18 billion in market capitalisation when Apple created an irresistible wave of change with the iPhone. The resulting smart phone innovation went unmatched by anyone for years – certainly not by Nokia.

Then, suddenly, Samsung overtook Apple in global smart phone shipments. The difference? Samsung is a dyed-in-the-wool open company (unlike Apple) that taps its workforce and partners as well as the competitive landscape for ideas. The results speak for themselves.

Open companies communicate well, but traditional communications technologies haven’t kept up. Many comms channels have proliferated over the years, giving rise to an overwhelming range of ways to stay in touch, but none that offers an open, collaborative environment – one that everyone is at home in and in which their contribution is given equal weight and visibility.

Email doesn’t lend itself to elegant mass participation or visibility. Intranets have become notice boards with little chance of interactive discussion. Collaborative platforms do not include sophisticated communications that are so necessary for idea sharing. And unified communications platforms (videoconferencing, IP telephony, white boards etc) are expensive.

A new breed of “social business software”

Of late, social technologies have entered the corporate consciousness. A new breed of “social business software” (SBS) platforms, also known as enterprise social software, uses social principles in a business context, offering great promise for inclusive, structured brainstorming within communities. They take the form of social and networked modifications to corporate intranets and communications software platforms or standalone SBS platforms.

SBS, itself a disruptive change in the market, combines and integrates “sharing” features of social media sites with collaboration and standard unified communications support, giving company stakeholders a collective or group-based platform within which to contribute to the corporate conversation, with the safety and equality that comes with openness.

It is clear that a company of information workers who communicate better will also increase their workplace and project efficiencies. In addition, they will co-create better, more nuanced ideas – faster. And more efficient companies that have better ideas stand a better chance of leading markets.

Platforms like WyseTalk, Yammer and Jive have been successful at “ideation” or the seeding, testing and framing of ideas within companies. They harness the untapped brilliance of individuals on the strength of the principle that many heads are better than one, provided their cross-pollination is managed systematically. Collaboration-driven SBS tools provide that systematic, open approach to innovation.

Since the introduction of this nascent (two-year-old) field in South Africa, leading companies in health care, financial services, mining, software, retail and hospitality have embraced it to create workplace efficiencies, knowledge and best-practice sharing, and communication.

As a result of implementing SBS successfully (a certain amount of change management is essential), excellent ideas need not be wasted. They will be given the exposure that is traditionally reserved for inner-circle employees, subjected to open scrutiny and a wide array of potentially complimentary or better ideas, earning individuals and companies the recognition that might otherwise have been denied them forever.

(a recent article published in Biz community


Organisational Trust and Performance

organisational trust and performance


I have written about the concept of trust in one of my previous blogs but the necessity of it in order to fulfill and compliment an effective social business software deployment and adoption is essential.

I will start by saying that trust is a precious commodity. If you want real quality in your organization, you must have the trust of the people in that organization. This point is fundamental. No trust equals inadequate quality.

Times change, priorities shift, but trust remains a constant if you make the effort and the effort is definitely worthwhile. Without the effort, short-term and inadequate measures will become the order of the day.

True quality in a business can only arise from a system that promotes quality processes at all times in all corporate activities. Central to such a system is trust.

Building genuine trust in an organization is definitely possible. But it does take…

View original post 293 more words

Organisational Trust and Performance

I have written about the concept of trust in one of my previous blogs but the necessity of it in order to fulfill and compliment an effective social business software deployment and adoption is essential.

I will start by saying that trust is a precious commodity. If you want real quality in your organization, you must have the trust of the people in that organization. This point is fundamental. No trust equals inadequate quality.

Times change, priorities shift, but trust remains a constant if you make the effort and the effort is definitely worthwhile. Without the effort, short-term and inadequate measures will become the order of the day.

True quality in a business can only arise from a system that promotes quality processes at all times in all corporate activities. Central to such a system is trust.

Building genuine trust in an organization is definitely possible. But it does take time and real commitment from the top. Further, it involves dealing with the organizational culture and probably changing it – no small task. When it comes to trust you can truly say that the devil is in the details.

Drucker estimates that building up trust will usually take a minimum of three years. Such a longer-term prospect can seem daunting to management. But it is a specific form of investment, with deep rewards at the end.

In his 1989 book on leadership, On Becoming a Leader, Bennis noted “ … trust is the underlying issue in not only getting people on your side, but having them stay there …”.

Trust is not something you can demand or order. It must be earned. You can have my trust only when I feel that you are worthy of my trust. If the slightest doubt creeps into the process or, worse, you betray my trust, an environment of distrust will ensue.

Trust has definite and bankable value. Without it, a true quality system within a  business just cannot work. The self-reinforcing causal loop diagram below provides an insight inside a trusted environment.


In an era of global competition, continuing innovation, deregulation, and economic uncertainties, good enough results might not cut it. Almost inevitably, someone else, with better quality, will become your corporate nemesis. And chances are good that a better quality emerges from a situation of better trust for the employees. Quality and trust go together. If you want to have quality on a sustained basis, you must have trust. Without trust, you may simply be setting up an elaborate corporate system of quality self-deception.

Trust in your workplace is worth thinking about continually. And such continual Trust for quality thinking requires continual acting.


Innovating in a Fast Changing world

A business which is serious about competing in fast changing markets with fast changing technology must make things happen – it must innovate. If it does not innovate it risks being overtaken by competitors. Sometimes a business underestimates the competitive challenges it faces. The risk of this happening is high when competitors react to potential challenges in much the same way. It is then – just when traditional industry players feel comfortable with each other – that a business faces the risk of competition from non- traditional suppliers. Non-conventional competition is more and more common. Once stable and regulated industries, such as insurance for example, have in recent years become fragmented by new players such as banks, brokerage firms, retailers, telecommunication and computer services firms. Many of the new entrants in the insurance industry and also in other once stable industries have used market innovation to achieve startling novel results. Before considering market innovation in detail, it is useful to consider briefly the two other main types of innovation which contribute to organic business development – product innovation and process innovation.

In times of fast changing markets and fast changing technology, businesses which want to safeguard their future must innovate. If they want to be proactive and develop further by organic means they must engage not just in occasional bursts of innovation, but in continous change. Three main types of innovation can be pursued for this purpose. First, market innovation – improving the mix of markets and how these are served. Second, product innovation – improving the mix of offers. Third, process innovation – improving the mix of internal operations.

In order to achieve and maintain competitive success in today’s turbulent marketplace, top management must spend at least as much time thinking about customers’ needs and how these might be met innovatively as thinking about internal operations. The assertion “experience is becoming irrelevant and even dangerous” is probably a deliberate exaggeration. But, to compete effectively in the future, a business needs to focus beyond the markets it serves presently and to concern itself with market innovation and the “total imaginable market”. Aggressive suppliers from other industries are adopting this wider approach. This is why retailers, brokerage firms, telecommunication and computer services businesses have entered financial services markets.

Not to be surprised by new competitors, incumbent suppliers in all industries need to concern themselves with market innovation. All businesses need to understand the changing needs of their customers. They must develop accurately targeted offers quickly and cost-effectively. Market innovation can help guide this quest by combining product line management with market opportunity analysis. When market innovation is bold and imaginative it provides not just a means for developing new business, but a revolutionary means for safeguarding existing business.


How Social Business Software (SBS) captures and integrates end user knowledge into improved business knowledge

Dynamic and Highly adaptable organizations today have been blurring the lines between strategic decision and operations. Here employees are generally expected to understand the organizations goals and strategies. Due to the pace of change businesses have to react, change and adapt these strategic goals frequently and do so rapidly.

If employees understand the visions and strategies and are in a well-designed social business software framework they can assist organizations achieve these goals.

Social Business Software aims to capture end-user tacit knowledge and integrate it within the existing knowledge of the business process models therefore forming a decentralized knowledge management framework. Thus the business processes that are designed are done with the participation of the organisational community aligned with the businesses strategic goals. Hence knowledge management through the use of SBS is created in two ways. Firstly current knowledge that exists within the organisation can be shared through the platform and secondly end-users can contribute to the existing knowledge with their own tacit knowledge.

Social Business Software allows for both a top-down and a bottom-up view of knowledge creation to occur through collaboration within their own business environment. One could argue that the top-down view of knowledge is very structured and compliant while the view on knowledge as ideation from the bottom-up can be seen in a less structured paradigm. Businesses that have fully embraced SBS have the ability to integrate formal and informal knowledge which allows to environment to adapt and change in order to achieve the strategic goals and vision of the enterprise.

The diagram below illustrates the Causal Loop of the Social Business enterprise commnity and knowledge capturing process.


In conclusion, the distance between business strategy and business operation is becoming shorter. Organizations can no longer rely on crystallized procedures, though they strive for optimized business operation. Businesses today have to constantly adapt to environmental changes. Therefore SBS allows an organisation to emphasize standardization and optimization and pair it with adaptation and the achievement of needs. Overall it creates an environment, which integrates the formal knowledge described in business operation with tacit human knowledge and is able to constantly allow for the reinterpretation of business strategy in the face of business environment changes.

Moving from Closed Innovation To Open Innovation

In the mid twentieth century, key technologies were developed by large enterprises within their Research and Development departments and were always applied to a firms own products. It was the vertical integration within those companies that provided their competitive advantage. Furthermore, the economies of scale of these large companies set them apart from their smaller rivals. This is seen as the traditional setting for closed innovation as the innovations are produced and commercialized only within a companies boundaries.

So what do we do when our highly skilled, highly mobile, knowledge employees are coupled with a world of rapid change and alternations in consumption and production functions are ever shortened? Well, we have to make an R&D paradigm shift. We need to shift to an Open Innovation Paradigm.

R&D needs to start enhancing technology and out-sourcing. By out-sourcing I mean incorporating a larger pool of your companies brain capacity, resourcing your customers to crowd-source better product development and incorporate your suppliers into your decision making processes. This provides the sum of collaborative Innovation and is in essence the Open Innovation Paradigm. As organizations we need to thrive and in order to do so we need to find new ways to access knowledge through technology in an ever-increasing world of complexity and uncertainty.

I have written frequently about how Social Business Software (SBS) can reform and assist businesses into becoming more openly innovative. So consider the following: an effective deployment of SBS will allow your business to improve in the following innovation Performance areas namely; new products, new methods of production, new sources of supply, exploitation of new markets and even new ways to organize business.

On the one hand an organizations ability to improve the effectiveness of what it does is greatly increased and by incorporating other stakeholders namely Customers into the process product options, design and even aesthetic, symbolic or emotional meanings of products can be enhanced. Another stakeholder group to incorporate into the open innovation transfer is that of the suppliers. Suppliers are able to assist and streamline supply chain management processes as well as assist with new product development.

The ability of an organisation to innovate with the cooperation of different stakeholders during the R&D processes will improve the firm’s absorptive capacity to recognize the value of these stakeholders and make use of them.

The connection between Organisational learning and collaboration through the deployment of Social Business Software and delivering an Open Innovation culture.

An Enterprise exhibits an Open Innovation focus when it is delivered through a learning oriented collaboration network within an organisation. Social Business Software (SBS) facilitates this collaboration. Learning is one of the key mechanisms to generate new knowledge and is the express purpose of collaborative relationships in an organisation.

The learning orientation toward a more collaborative enterprise environment has significant implications on how the firm innovates and retains its competitive advantage. Learning orientation is defined as the development of new knowledge or insights that have the potential to influence behavior through its values and beliefs within the culture of an organisation. (Slater and Narver, 1999)

The Successful deployment of SBS in an organisation will provide an opportunity to continually renew views on operations, processes and its resources. These learnings through collaboration will, over time, lead to enhanced organisational capabilities that cements the firms positioning in its business environment through more proactive decision making which ultimately results in competitive advantages.

SBS as a platform allows the firm to continuously learn, acquire and develop the new and relevant knowledge and skills that will keep up with and stay ahead of its competitors.

A business which has successfully deployed SBS will create an innovative firm that uses the interconnectedness of its people. This can be called a Dynamic Capability; as the platform allows a firm to quickly respond too and exploit the changing market environment. Over time this can lead to imitability. The firms capability to innovate stongly depends on its ability to gain, create and transfer knowledge and resources both within the firm and with its suppliers and customers. Collaboration and networking are becoming increasingly important to the innovation cycle within the enterprise.

To achieve this an organisation must have a viable innovation environment an environment that promotes knowledge transfer.

Organisations today have the ability through collaboration, networking and knowledge sharing to become more openly innovative. The boundary between the enterprise and its environment could be said to have become more permeable, enabling ideas and knowledge to flow more freely all underpinned by Social Business Software.