Mission: Showing the Value of Social Business Initiatives

An introduction from Bob Berkman, the new contributing editor to MIT Sloan Management Review’s Innovation Hub on Social Business.

An introduction from Robert Berkman, the new contributing editor to MIT Sloan Management Review's Innovation Hub on Social Business.

Hello Social Business readers,

Greetings and welcome to the site! This month I begin as contributing editor for MIT Sloan Management Review's Innovation Hub on Social Business, so you’ll be seeing my name here often in this space. So let me start by introducing myself, and sharing a few thoughts about my own take on social technologies in the enterprise.

So what’s my story?

I’ve been a researcher, writer, author and professor in the information industry for over 25 years, as an author of several books on emerging technologies as well as an editor at large information firms such as McGraw-Hill and Ziff-Davis, and tiny niche ones too.

I also branched out to do my own thing — in 1988 I started up The Information Advisor, a Consumers Reports-type journal, but one focused on helping information pros choose the best content for their enterprise and be sharper researchers. I also teach (online) in the MA Media Studies program at The New School in New York City on social media and culture; new media ethics; and other information and communication trends.

I make my home in Rochester, New York, home of famed cultural institutions like the Scorsese film archives at The George Eastman House and The Garbage Plate at Nick Tahoe’s.

I’ve been watching, researching and writing about technologies in business ever since I launched a series on Knowledge Management for The Information Advisor back in 1996: Eventually it became clear that it was not large, complex KM systems, but the social, Web 2.0 tools that were truly helping businesses better collaborate, find and share information and expertise and streamline operations. So in 2009 I replaced it with a series on Enterprise 2.0 and have been immersed in that movement ever since.

My mission here will be to share with you the most compelling, thought provoking and useful new reports, studies, news, findings and research on the use of social technologies in business — and let you know their practical significance. I’m particularly interested these days on anything that helps businesses show value from enterprise social initiatives — that means things like ROI, metrics, ways of measurement and so on. But I’m also closely tracking other emerging and timely issues — a few of these include the integration of apps and social; and best practices for initiating social technologies into specific business lines and functions.

But this is a blog, and that means — I hope — a two way dialogue with all of you. Please let me know what else you’d like to see discussed in this space and what’s on your mind.

Finally, my own larger take and philosophy on technology closely follows the thinking of one of my heroes, the late great cultural critic, author and professor Neil Postman. Postman founded the Media Ecology program at New York University, and authored several books on how to think about technology and media. All technology, he cautioned, is a Faustian bargain — we get something but always give something away too.

We’re here to help ensure that when you integrate social into your enterprise, that you do so in an efficient but thoughtful manner, with a minimum amount of unnecessary disruption and a maximum amount of real and meaningful benefits.

Looking forward to your comments and suggestions!

5 Comments On: Mission: Showing the Value of Social Business Initiatives

  • rickladd | August 21, 2012

    Interesting trajectory. Mine is quite similar, though I decided to take an offer of early retirement in May of 2010. At the time I had been doing KM at Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne; an effort that began somewhere around 1996 on the Space Shuttle Main Engine team (when we were owned by Boeing).

    By the time I left I had been working at getting the entire enterprise to recognize the value of social to enhance communication, collaboration, and findability (as I saw it). Much of the message fell on deaf ears, hence the decision to accept the offer those of us over 60 were presented with. The alternative seemed far too dismal as the Shuttle program had been cancelled and NASA was having difficulty deciding on the next heavy-lift vehicle configuration. Layoffs were imminent.

    It’s good to read an affirmation of my lonely understanding. I am still desirous of helping organizations achieve the very things you are directing your efforts toward. Unfortunately, I’m finding the oft-repeated declaration that we should respect and make use of the knowledge, understanding, and wisdom of our older workers seems to be infused with a great deal of hot air.

  • Robert Berkman | August 23, 2012

    Thanks rickladd for your comment. It sounds like you had a very interesting and challenging career-and certainly worked in an environment where sharing tips, knowledge and experience easily would be of huge benefit to the larger group….

    -perhaps you were ahead of your time…

  • isbi.utm | August 27, 2012

    I am a professor at University Technology Malaysia, and starting to teach social business. I’ve also started the Initiative for Social Business Innovation (ISBI) which seeks to research and educate about Social Business in Asia (socialbusinessasia.com; @socialbizasia). Sorry for tooting my own horn, but I look forward to your coverage of this issue and incorporating your findings into our own efforts. Best, Nick

  • Robert Berkman | August 29, 2012

    Hello Nick,

    Thanks for your comment. Would love to see a syllabus and any other materials you’d care to share–your work sounds quite interesting.

  • ma.e | October 7, 2013

    FYI, when I first became aware of the Social Business Initiative, the Hub, the survey, etc. I was under the impression that the purview was “social business” as related to “social enterprise” or as defined by Muhammad Yunus, i.e. addressing a societal problem or somehow benefiting society. Vague definitions all around. You’ll notice that is how “social business” is defined in Wikipedia, which I’m sure is the first reference resource for the casual reader. I hope you can find a way to make this clear going forward, and I hope that the same confusion of definitions didn’t affect the responses of your survey. Important to be aware of going forward.

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