We share 99% of our DNA with monkeys. The difference between social organizations that are leaping forward and ones that are stagnant or that lack a social strategy is also in that 1%. The truth is in the details.
The DNA of a social organization starts with real things like value, people, vision, and leadership. Benioff is unquestionably a successful and innovative CEO, but one of the most important things he did was to open SalesForce up to developers and build a community of users who wanted to continuously improve it trough direct feedback, idea pitches, and add-ins via a fairly open API. All of these things start with decisions made by Mark and other leaders to embrace the cloud and openness.
The circulatory system
Data is the lifeblood of many organizations these days. If you have pathways that are constricted because of closed off knowledge, outdated systems, or misuse of what you put into it (cholesterol), you have problems. Problems that result in fire-drills, but also problems that result in lost opportunities and they’ll start to impact your bottom line.
Good data, on the other hand, works like adding extra white blood cells to your blood – training in the mountains. Think Lance Armstrong and 7 Tour de France victories. Good data helps you make better decisions, respond to your clients and customers, and improve the bottom line (whatever it may be). But data without context isn’t as useful as data with insights and context.
Muscles – flexible, purposeful, coordinated
Think about your hands just for a second. Peel back the layers of skin to look at a Da Vinci like reproduction of a perfect human grasping mechanism. Exquisitely constructed, very few animals have such a multipurpose appendage. What is more amazing is that you use that hand to coordinate lots of other parts of the body. Picture a musician wielding a bow in one hand, taking signals from the eyes, while the other hand dances along the bridge. (there’s a reason I play the sax and not a string instrument – too many different things at once)
Hands, and the muscles that control them, are like teams. Dedicated to a purpose, but deeply connected to the rest of the being to take a single sweeping motion to form part of an awe inspiring concerto. From a food shoveling, basal human action to a work of art.
DNA might determine the size of your hands, and the blood will help them function, but the muscles are what turn those first two elements into something much more than just skin and flesh.
Take care of your muscles – all of them.
The nervous system
I love brains. It constantly amazes me that, as I write, electrical signals are jumping across the tiny space between millions of neurons in my head which in turn prompt small muscle movements in my hands, making the connection between ideas and words – between theory, language, and abstraction.
The brain is like the relationships within an organization that flutter and coordinate the many activities across muscles and more to make the body operate in harmony. The brain, with it’s associative powers and evolving connections is at the center of the social business. Perhaps the spinal cord is the better analogy. As Andrew McAfee warns, we should be careful when computers start to work more and more like the brain.
Consider this story. We were part of one of the recent spats of social media “vote to win” fundraising campaigns. Great for companies. Bad for non-networked non-profits. Fortunately, we are a well networked non-profit. In a matter of hours, messages spanned out from the national and regional offices asking for a vote – from local program directors to heads of teams. We’re typically pretty conservative about the all hands on deck calls to action for fear of asking too much and making sure when we do ask, it’s for a really good reason. This counted.
Even more important than the vote, the email asked the network to tweet, post to Facebook and LinkedIn, and email a few people to do the same. All said and done, the net time on action required to vote and share was about 3 minutes. But the power of having those inside the network post is what made the difference. Many of us are friends with each other and so the likes and comments followed, bringing the posts and links to the top of the social media chain. In very little time those soft connections built on each other to reach new connections. In the end, it worked and we had secured quite a generous gift. This was no CEO demanding employees to take action, this was a collective harnessing of our individual and collective networks. Whether or not you agree with the premise of popularity-contest based giving, the story still stands.
The Rider and the Elephant
The Heath brothers, in their book Switch, coined the concept of the rider and the elephant – the analytical mind and the emotional impulse. The two are very real decision making engines constantly tugging at each other. While the Heath brothers focus on how to channel those two forces to get things done in organizations, they also reflect the dual nature of the decision making engines inside an organization and how a good organization has structures that help keep the two in balance.
In short, your brain, muscles, blood, and DNA don’t always want the same thing and are motivated by different influences. It takes careful planning to coordinate it all into action.
Pulling it together
A networked and social organization needs to work like a fit body – automated, intelligent, connected, responsive. Here are the key requirements:
- Social DNA
- Big data with small analysis
- Flexible teams and structures
- Open communications
- Checks and balances
Over the next few weeks I’ll be digging into each of these in a little more depth to explore how you can put the core concepts, strategies, and tools in play.
Like any theory, this is both grounded in practice and experience but drawn from wider schema. In short, it needs improvement based on your own experiences and findings. Share the love.