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Social business nuggets, February 2012

Last week I attended the first of the Social Business Sessions, something kickstarted by Will. It was a deliberately organic meeting of interesting people to wrestle with the infinitely interesting topic of social business.

Rather than provide a blow-by-blow account of what was discussed and provides countless links, I wanted to capture a few nuggets that have stuck with me. I always rate any type of event or conference by number of nuggets taken away – ideas or themes that plant in my head and find useful outcomes weeks, months or years later.


Nick Crawford from BUPA was up first and he presented a case study of BUPAlive, their newly deployed Jive-based internal comms platform. He was frank about the barriers to progress (internal comms being fearful of losing control, cost, security etc), and what struck me was his enthusiastic method of overcoming each one. For example, when facing the dreaded ROI question, he decided to start making a list of the things that were happening with BUPAlive that couldn’t have happened before. Perhaps not the most scientific method, but a laudable one and a method that was obviously paying off – he presented some impressive figures that suggested the system was a success.

When working with (and within) complex organisations it’s all-to-easy to get swallowed up by process and reasons not to do something different. Nick’s pragmatic approach was inspiring and could be adopted by others who are simply keen to get shit done.


Many of us would agree that modern business is buggered for a variety of reasons, but I’ve never heard it put quite so succinctly as Lee Bryant from Headshift did. He suggested that many large businesses were loss-making throughout the majority of divisions, but were often saved by one single profit making element. He argued that modern businesses had ‘picked all of the low hanging fruit’ and needed to drastically change in order to survive.

I’ve heard this sentiment before but it was Lee’s citing of the Deloitte Shift Index that grabbed my attention. This report contains fairly conclusive proof that a number of industries have been on a downward slope for decades, and are trending towards zero. What better argument for a new way of working?


Carole Leslie from the Employee Ownership Association talked about (oddly) employee onwership, and provided a list of great examples beyond John Lewis. What struck me was her passion for authentic ownership – as she put it:

You can’t get a sense of ownership without actual ‘ownership’

I think social business could easily be seen as a quick win, something to jump onto as a fad. It’s not. It’s potentially slow to adopt, awkward and needs proper consideration.


Lastly, my colleague Jenni Lloyd gave an overview of her recent experiences with First Group, one of our clients. She talked about the common challenges facing First Groups’ various train operating companies, before honing in on the human element. As Jenni explained, it’s all well and good getting the systems right, nailing the processes and getting the buy-in from various senior exectutives, but ultimately you need the employee who will physically communictating with the customer to buy it. They are the last mile. Without them all the good work in the world will be wasted. Great proof of an idea I’ve heard Jenni mention before, culture eats strategy for lunch.


Anne McCrossan from Visceral Business gave a talk that contained some a solid model for understanding behaviour (plotting types of people against engaged/curious axis) and also a Karl Lagerfeld quote that linked with one that Lee used earlier in the day:

Man is the lowest cost, 150 pound, nonlinear, all-purpose computer system which can be mass produced by unskilled labor.
NASA, 1965

Anne mentioned the Lagerfeld tweet “machines don’t create ideas”, which linked nicely with the NASA one, and follows on from Jenni’s talk. In the maelstrom of hype around social business it’s good to remember that human’s are still the amazing beings they’ve always been, and that systems can only augment, not take over.

So, there are my five golden nuggets. I hope to get along to the next one in March.

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  1. By Event: Social Business Sessions London | Tom Nixon on 12th March 2012 at 12:01 pm

    [...] You can read Ross’ take-away nuggets from the first event here. [...]