Many senior executives still think of social media as something you do after hours for fun, says John Hagel, co-chairman of the Deloitte Center for the Edge — they haven’t bought into the idea that social can drive the core performance of the business. He’s committed to showing them why they’re wrong.
"One thing that's really undervalued in discussions of social technology and social business is the opportunity to make the invisible visible," says John Hagel. It's the opportunity, he says, "to see patterns of activity and interactions that you never knew were occurring." Hagel is co-chairman of the Deloitte Center for the Edge, a research center based in Silicon Valley that he has led for the past five years. The Center's focus is to help senior executives make sense of and profit from emerging opportunities on the edge of business and technology. It does so by identifying emerging business opportunities that should be on the CEO's agenda but are not, and doing the research to persuade CEOs to put them on their agendas. A paper published recently by the Center, Social Software for Business Performance, takes an in-depth look at what it means for companies to effectively launch social tools and technologies. Co-authored by Hagel and the Center's other co-chair, the renowned business and technology researcher John Seely Brown, the study notes that senior executives are skeptical of the value of social software, but makes the case that companies can leverage social software to significantly enhance business performance in the short-term and transform it in the long-term. In a conversation with David Kiron, executive editor of Innovation Hubs at MIT Sloan Management Review, Hagel talked about the report and shared some additional thoughts on what it means to be an effective social business. In your research you identify "exceptions" as a business issue that social tools and technologies can help with. What do you mean by "exceptions" and how do they connect with social business? Based on some of the work Deloitte has done we believe that about 60 percent to 70 percent of the headcount time in most functions within an enterprise is consumed by handling "exceptions," things that get thrown out of automated processes. It's an exception when it doesn't comply with policies or the rules of the process — an individual has to go and resolve it, typically by scrambling around because they can't resolve it on their own. They need to get a number of other people engaged to help.