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Rome wasn’t built in a day

One of the problems with social business (or whatever we want to call it at the moment) is that people take the disruptive characteristics of social media and scare the hell out of business leaders with them. They talk about hierarchies being flattened, corporate culture being changed overnight, centralized functions getting decentralized, and so on.

It is true that many of these things may happen, but they’re not going to occur overnight in any organization with more than about 25 employees (it’s unlikely that it would happen overnight for those with under that number either).

Stealthmode’s Francine Hardaway says that she can’t advise her enterprise clients about social media “because they are terrified about transparency”. Paraphrasing, she argues that these companies can never achieve the kind of real time collaboration amongst employees or with customers because everything has to go through legal, the CMO, CFO or even CEO.

Now I’m certainly familiar with this scenario, but I would have to add a couple of points:

  • Some aspects of social business are more disruptive than others. Almost no company is going to agree to unleash havoc overnight, and many will be willing to listen to small ideas that could make a big difference to the way in which they attract, grow and retain staff and customers.
  • Changes don’t need to made before attempting to become more social; they usually happen as a result of doing so. That approach helps organizations to start small yet build the confidence for the bigger challenges and changes.

So let’s remember that Rome wasn’t built in a day, and take time to help our companies find those small, unassuming changes that we can implement under the radar (trojan mice, I like to call them), build adoption, and create value one step at a time. It’s time we stopped scaring CxOs about the perils social business and started enthusing them about the opportunities instead.