Musing about shared value

Have you read Haydn Shaughnessy? If you’re interested in the social enterprise, you should. I haven’t yet read his recent book, The Elastic Enterprise, but I will: I intend to read it as I cross the Atlantic on my way to SXSW later this week. (I’m speaking there on the Saturday, on Massively Multiplayer Work, and at least 12 people have said they’d turn up for it).

Following on from a post he’d written in January, headlined Understanding Social: An Infographic of a New Business Idea, Haydn continued his train of thought with a post today: Why Social Business Will Fail (And How To Save It).

Haydn argues that for businesses to become truly social, they must be transformed, and radically at that. This transformation takes place in three dimensions. First, there is a change in how people are connected and how they communicate, both within the enterprise as well as beyond the enterprise, supply chain and distribution network, all the way to the customers themselves. Second, this transformation affects the very fabric of the industries involved, its participants, structures and processes as they evolve into open platform-based ecosystems rather than vertically integrated silos. These two facets, when taken in combination, then yield the third dimension: a genuine focus on the creation and evolution of shared value.

I’m a long-term Cluetrain devotee, so I’m not about to start arguing with those views. [Disclosure: Chris Locke, Doc Searls, David Weinberger and Rick Levine are good friends of mine. And the 10th Anniversary Edition of the book contains a chapter written by me.]

Maybe some of you haven’t read Cluetrain as yet. Please do something about it. Now. Read it here. Go buy the book. Scan the teaser I’ve stuck below here, listing the first 16 of the 95 “theses” that make up the book. Do something. Now.


Amazing, to think that all that was written maybe 14 years ago.

Haydn uses the examples of Apple and Amazon to explain how a truly social enterprise changes industrial landscapes irreversibly, how the ecosystems evolve, how participants create and share value. Again, I couldn’t agree more, other than to point out that the radical transformations that Apple and Amazon have wrought, they result in at least one effect that doesn’t get mentioned: the slimming down, exit, sometimes even extinction, of many of the incumbents in related industries.

The separation between customer and employee, as evinced in the pre-Cluetrain world, is blurring. In a true social enterprise, the informed, connected, empowered customer is now engaging with the informed, connected employee: it is no surprise that the value created is truly shared.

Haydn also makes the point that the implementation of a social media layer on existing operations and processes is not what makes a business social.

Social is about sharing. And about the creation of shared value.

Social is about business transformation, albeit a renaissance of sorts.

Social is about a radical restructuring about the relationships and flows within a market.

Social is about changing the way we work.

The social enterprise represents an inflection point for the very concept of enterprise.

That’s why the vision of Marc Benioff and his team makes sense.

And that’s what attracted me to join the company.



11 thoughts on “Musing about shared value”

  1. The separation between customer and employee, as evinced in the pre-Cluetrain world, is blurring. In a true social enterprise, the informed, connected, empowered customer is now engaging with the informed, connected employee: it is no surprise that the value created is truly shared.

    I remember the day and time I had my major epiphany about all this stuff. I had just finished reading Peter Drucker’s “Beyond the Information Revolution” (The Atlantic Monthly, October 1999), and the last seven paragraphs or so two-by-foured me across the forehead.

    I beg your indulgence here .. I’ll paste part of the last section, titled “Bribing The Knowledge Worker” below: (remember, this article came at the height of the dot-com boom) ..

    What we call the Information Revolution is actually a Knowledge Revolution. What has made it possible to routinize processes is not machinery; the computer is only the trigger. Software is the reorganization of traditional work, based on centuries of experience, through the application of knowledge and especially of systematic, logical analysis. The key is not electronics; it is cognitive science. This means that the key to maintaining leadership in the economy and the technology that are about to emerge is likely to be the social position of knowledge professionals and social acceptance of their values. For them to remain traditional “employees” and be treated as such would be tantamount to England’s treating its technologists as tradesmen—and likely to have similar consequences.

    Today, however, we are trying to straddle the fence—…

    Bribing the knowledge workers on whom these industries depend will therefore simply not work. The key knowledge workers in these businesses will surely continue to expect to share financially in the fruits of their labor. But the financial fruits are likely to take much longer to ripen, if they ripen at all. And then, probably within ten years or so, running a business with (short-term) “shareholder value” as its first—if not its only—goal and justification will have become counterproductive.

    Increasingly, performance in these new knowledge-based industries will come to depend on running the institution so as to attract, hold, and motivate knowledge workers.

    When this can no longer be done by satisfying knowledge workers’ greed, as we are now trying to do, it will have to be done by satisfying their values, and by giving them social recognition and social power. It will have to be done by turning them from subordinates into fellow executives, and from employees, however well paid, into partners.

    The value created would be generated by/from shared activities, and would need to be shared (in terms both economic and ‘political’ .. power in the organization).

    The light went on. I concluded that traditional hierarchy was going to begin morphing into something else, as software grew more intelligent, more comprehensive, and more interconnected / networked .. with people using the software to process information, knowledge and exchanges with each other.

    And .. (opinion) there’s still lots of change coming for us to observe and in which to participate.

  2. At the moment, the relationship between two companies that do business with each other seems to me to be like two ships of the line firing broadsides at each other; bow to bow (sales to purchasing, for example) and stern to stern (logistics talking to each other).

    With social, that stand-off can reach the full melée as the crews board each others’ ships and others join the scrap. It’ll be even more chaotic and very noisy than it is now; until people learn how to filter and sift, which is to say, ignore the fights that don’t concern them.

  3. There’s a tension between “social” and re-engineering, er… “transformation and restructuring.” (Sorry about that, flashed back to Drucker and the original “knowledge revolution.”)

    Appreciation of “human capital” and “human resources” (“personnel,” prior to Drucker) never resulted in employees morphing into partners. Instead, the trend since has been for employer-employee relationships to be ever more disposable. Workers who don’t jump from firm to firm find their earnings don’t keep pace with less experienced new hires. Employers view long-time employees as liabilities, resistant to change rather than fonts of institutional knowledge. Particularly ironic, outsourcers now commonly fulfill the role of the Human Resources Department.

    As long as relationships are limited to form submissions and outsourced fulfillment centers, it’s fairly easy to reduce costs by offshoring positions or switching vendors. But once relationships of respect and affection are established (re-established?) among stakeholders, restructuring will become much more disruptive.

    *Disclosure: While as a Domino developer I am enthusiastic about the idea of the “social enterprise,” adoption of was an indirect factor in the loss of my long-time job.

  4. Gwen, I’d say your comments hold up a mirror (in the broad & general sense) to the ongoing debate about whether business will become (let’s call it) ‘social’ or not. I like to believe that Drucker (and myself and others) are thinking longer-term (and no doubt somewhat idealistically).

    Elsewhere Drucker said that increasingly knowledge workers were coming to ‘own the means of production’ .. of value. That, in the context of the quoting lifted from the article, implies an ongoing shift in power, albeit one that is dragging itself pout over a long period of time.

    It is an interesting question for me to wonder whether we are in the late stages of a paradigm where profits and costs will remain the main if not only levers of business (i.e., ‘social’ nice as a branding & PR exercise that becomes quickly irrelevant when for example a large number of people are let go when a new CEO or management team comes in), or whether ‘we’ will eventually turn to a more widespread awareness that business, work and employment are the fundamental elements of a fairer, more just and more conscious society.

  5. I am waiting to see if Jon’s description of the ‘informed, connected’ employee and customer together create a kind of “Trades Union” or “buying group” to collaborate in order to overpower or gain an advantage over the traditional corporation who is not going social.

    This may be facilitated by Personal Data management services [like ] and integration into VRM ideas of customers negotiating with the corporation and creating buying power through anonymous “personal RFPs” and a renegotiated power play between the individual and the organisation.

    Doc Searl’s new book The Intention Economy publishes soon, I think. And will probably feature this. JP, have you been asked to review it? Seen a pre-publication copy?

  6. facilitated by Personal Data management services [like ] and integration into VRM ideas of customers negotiating with the corporation and creating buying power through anonymous “personal RFPs” and a renegotiated power play between the individual and the organization.

    Good points, and there appear to be a range of new and ongoing experiments and services in the arena you point to. I think it’s reasonable to assume that some of these will become embedded in the infrastructure of commerce and collaborative work.

    I’m also thinking it’s reasonable to assume that the core issues in your phrase “renegotiated power play between the individual and the organization” will be on the table for a while given the economic, financial and sociological forces in play. And it also appears that there’s no getting around a real and tangible renegotiation ?

  7. Jon, I think the players in this market would be sorely disappointed if there were not a “real and tangible renegotiation”. There’s a lot invested in VRM.
    Have any of you had the chance to read a pre-publication copy of Doc Searl’s new book [due out May, I believe]?

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