Why Social Business?

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Social Business

Social business research and more recent thought leadership explore the challenges and opportunities presented by social media.
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Image courtesy of Flickr user Velo Steve.

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.

Social Business

Social business research and more recent thought leadership explore the challenges and opportunities presented by social media.
More in this series

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Comments (6)
Rene Leanda
social media is where the future of internet is going to... and that is why it is great for businesses... social media has indeed have a great impact on physiological needs of every individual... and it is now becoming a need..
David Kiron
@ephraim Thanks for your thoughts, here's my response.
@iloveGarick Nimble.com
::joining the conversation:: now listening in and engaging via the various networks..

Thanks Sean! I look forward to captivating content.

People are people and people do business with those that they know and they trust. That's the power of social as more and more of us are sharing our lives across the digital web.
Sean M. Brown

Thanks for your interest; you can join the MIT SMR conversation on Social Business on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.

Dear staff launching Social Business, 

Thanks for taking the initiative to this hub. 

However, I believe in order for you to bring some more interaction the conversation, you'd benefit from taking the conversation to Facebook or another social arena where there is substantial amount of visitors. 


This is a good down-to-earth post David. 

I think to start answering the questions you've posed we need to stop using the term "human capital management." 

The main point of "social business" is that people and their connections move to the forefront (of software, organizational structures, planning, etc). As a term, "human capital management" really takes the "human" out of people. 

"HCM" represents a detached, mechanistic way of talking about people and leadership. Let's do away with it.