Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Pipeline 2011 - Social Media Meets Innovation

On June 1st, I will be the closing keynote speaker at Pipeline 2011, the online innovation conference on product development.  And while I spend a great deal of time talking about innovation theory, I thought I would deviate today to discuss a bit about the subject of my talk...Social Media.

I have had the fortune to stumble upon the concept of using social media within the enterprise since 2006.  In fact, my foray into the subject came about through my interaction with a supplier called Accelovation.  This company eventually morphed into NetBase and after successfully implementing their social media solutions at my two previous companies, I have joined the company as its Chief Evangelist responsible for helping people see the power of social media as a data source for driving the business.

This post is not about what I have accomplished in social media as much as it is about starting a dialogue prior to my talk at Pipeline 2011.  In fact, what I want it to be about is my favorite innovation subject...culture and trust.  About two months ago I discussed the concept of culture based adoption.   This idea, which discussed how new software is as much about getting people to use new tools as it is about changing culture in the process, is at the center of the social media debate in my mind.

For many months, I have learned much about what I consider the slow adoption of social media as a data source.  In working with many companies in many fields, I have heard many reasons why they are slow to integrate what is clearly impacting all of us everyday.  It's not accurate.  It's biased.  Only gen y is online.  Companies are poisoning the data.  The list goes on and on.  But what often amazes me is this.  When confronted by what I consider fear of change within the corporation (a topic of the politics of innovation), I always ask people one simple question.  When you are about to buy an appliance or an electronic product what is the first thing you do?  The all say go to the web and read up.  This to me highlights the struggle social media faces within the Enterprise.  The ENTERPRISE is not telling the WE or the ME (my earlier post) that social media is extremely important.  There is cultural misalignment and therefore resistance to this new and powerful idea.  The proof is in the fact the everyone (ME) turns to the web immediately about hundred times a day through their phone. 

In fact, I had the pleasure of presenting at an offsite in February to discuss how it can be applied.  This company was a one that sits on the tip of everyone's tongue everyday and more importantly is in the heart of silicon valley.  At this offsite, I asked the group to raise their hand if they felt that social media could be a relevant data source.  Not one person out of about 50 did.  I was shocked.  Here I am standing within one of silicon valley's giants and even that company is resistant.  This company does ALL of its business online, but no one is telling everyone who uses the web personally everyday that the conversations online are relevant to learn from.  And I did ask them the question above after no one raised their hands and people smiled and agreed they do look to the web when they buy.

Now many people will say that there are so many tools how do you know what to choose?  This is a true statement, but I guess the point here is that to build a new capability you can't take all the risk out of your experiments.  Even thought I represent a company that sells a profound capability to driving social media insights and analysis, I am a change agent and innovation broker at heart.  I tell any customer I work with that they need to think about a suite of tools just like anything.  Everyone wants one solution to do everything.  And while the market will mature and there will eventually be that one tool, it is important to move from fear to exploration.  We must stop letting social media impact us and move to a place of embracing the change by getting off the wall and asking our partner at the junior high dance to do just that.

How can stay competitive if you are unable to even take the risk to compete....

See you in June to learn more about how social media can make innovation faster, better and cheaper.

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