Who Moved My Social Business?

All memes come to an end and management memes (or fads, if you prefer) are no different. The terminology we choose to use is both important and not important at the same time.

The phrase Social Business deserves to be debated, because it should be a tool for us to interrogate and analyse what is going inside and outside of organisations as a result of the emergence of social software and other related technologies (cloud, mobile, etc). Like it or not, technology does change society although it it difficult to predict the outcomes or true causality.

RevolutionMany historians argue that the idea of the Industrial Revolution is a misnomer, because it was in fact a gradual process of economic and social change. Similarly we aren’t really experiencing a Social Business Revolution either – if anything social media is accessory to the overall Digital Revolution (you see the challenge here, don’t you?) that started in the middle of the last century. The impact of social media on the workplace (and by association government and society) could be akin to the impact of the transition from steam power to electricity in factories.

I’m reminded of an SBS documentary that was broadcast over the summer, Seduction in the City: The Birth of Shopping:

“The department store is arguably the cleverest invention of the industrial revolution. The genius idea of turning wants into needs not only created consumer culture, it also, paradoxically, sowed the seeds of female emancipation.”

Bainbridge’s in Newcastle, England – now a John Lewis department store – is credited with being “the first department store in the world in 1849, after it began recording weekly turnover separately by department.”

Its interesting to note that this achievement is based on an accounting practice. The changes to society that these departments stores represented was just as much about what they sold and how they sold it, as it was about how they organised themselves. This is also the message of Social Business.

Social media could be the cleverest invention of the Digital Revolution, but there is no foresight or promise here. But then this is a time for entrepreneurs and intrapreneurship, not semantic debate.

Image credit: Chris Corwin – revolution CC-BY-SA