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Why we’re exploring the social business phenomenon — and the kinds of questions we will be asking in our new Social Business Hub.
In 2010, I had the good fortune to interview several employees of Kaiser Permanente, the California-based health care company. Among this group was a young manager named Karin Cooke, who developed IdeaBook, a software tool that allows KP employees to share and discuss their ideas about modifying products, service and process in use at KP. At first, a few people were invited to use the tool, but demand was so great that the transition from pilot to enterprise-wide launch took place much faster than expected.
The enthusiastic reaction to Ideabook was eye-opening to me for two reasons. One was because I could not imagine myself using such a tool. I can be private, and skeptical about new ways to do my job.
The other reason was more conceptual than personal. The speed with which IdeaBook was adopted at KP suggested a kind of hunger among KP employees. Not merely a hunger to connect to others, but also to give voice to their own ideas and to be heard. Not just by a few, but by thousands.
These motivations correspond to a list of three basic psychological needs developed by researchers at the University of Rochester (where I did my graduate work in philosophy):
- Connecting with others,
- Feeling self-determined in directing one’s actions and
- Having a sense of competency about what one does.
All are essential to an individual’s well being, according to these researchers. That social media might be enabling new kinds of worker satisfaction is exciting, especially since these kinds of collaboration are happening in many industries and in government, even at the Central Intelligence Agency.
There is a great deal of hype about social media’s impact on the marketing function, and while it is true that in many businesses social media starts with the business to consumer relationship, it may be that the greater promise of social media, and the collaboration it enables, is enhancing organizational performance. This is one of the key areas we are going to focus on in this hub.