This story was written by Keith Dawson for UBM DeusM’s community Web site Business Agility, sponsored by IBM. It is archived here for informational purposes only because the Business Agility site is no more. This material is Copyright 2012 by UBM DeusM.

Social Business By Design

Meet the men who wrote the book on social business.

A new book by Dion Hinchcliffe and Peter Kim encapsulates the learning that companies have won as they transform into social businesses. They were our guests on Business Agility Radio.


Hinchcliffe and Kim's book, Social Business By Design: Transformative Social Media Strategies for the Connected Company, was published in April of this year by John Wiles & Sons. At its introduction the book spent some time at the #1 spot on Amazon's Hot New Releases list. The two authors work with The Dachis Group, advising the leadership teams of Fortune 500 and Global 2000 firms to help them develop strategy for the new century.

We welcomed the two authors to Business Agility Radio earlier this week. I started off with a quote from the book: "We have seen the end of the beginning for social business." Companies have been incorporating feedback, techniques, and processes from the world of social media for more than a decade. Pretty much every enterprise has begun this process, and as Kim noted, "For any company that doesn't participate [in social business], they're still going to feel the impact of the trends in the marketplace that are driving social media and social business today."

The book offers a three-part characterization of what social business consists of:

  1. It creates and delivers most of its value over the network, usually indirectly (not centralized production, but peer production).
  2. It consists of a loosely coupled entity -- usually a very large number of customers and suppliers who have as much control over outcomes as any other part of the business.
  3. It has effective strategies to take advantage of the new balance of abundance and scarcity, along with greatly reduced dependencies on the old balance.

An extreme example
One organization that embodies this characterization is reCAPTCHA (now owned by Google). The originator of this ubiquitous distinguish-bots-from-humans test became concerned at the amount of human effort reCAPTCHA was wasting. Hundreds of thousands of people per day took 10 seconds to solve visual challenges, and this time added up to 150,000 hours of work per day, according to Hinchcliffe.

So reCAPTCHA's creator repurposed the tool to verify optical character recognition from scanned documents, and reCAPTCHA has now contributed significantly to the conversion of 100 years of New York Times back issues for access over the Web. "reCAPTCHA is one of the more extreme examples, but it shows how organizations can completely rethink how they can tap into the network," said Kim. And Hinchcliffe added, "Social business by design is about being deliberate, and it's about crafting these activities that give you that 'two birds with one stone' effect."

Leading the pack
I asked the authors whether any company so far had climbed high enough up the social-business maturity curve that it could claim to embrace all or most of the techniques and processes spelled out in the book. I didn't mention IBM (sponsor of Business Agility), though the company was on my personal short list as a leader in the move to social business. Kim confirmed this:

I think the answer is no, to be straight. I think that IBM has done a great job of putting a lot of tools in place, changing processes, and with 400,000 professionals, that's a lot of minds to change. If we had to say who is farthest along, they are the first company that comes to mind.

You can listen here to the full interview with Dion Hinchcliffe and Peter Kim, and read the questions and answers in the accompanying chat.