imageLately I’ve been thinking a lot about the transformative value of Social Business.  It’s clear that every business is becoming a social business – whether they realize it or not – as a result of the unmistakable fact that leaders, employees and consumers are pervasively adopting social networking as a way of life.  The question now is, how will businesses harness this new reality?  Well, we are now seeing leading businesses harness social technologies to energize a new production line for the digital age.

Historically, the production line was largely about producing physical things more effectively and efficiently. Before the production line, people had to build all manner of things painstakingly by hand. These things took a long time to assemble so they cost a great deal to buy.

But when Henry Ford introduced the first moving production line to the nascent automobile industry, he was able to improve the efficiency of his factories by a factor of eight to one. Model Ts were rolling off the line every three minutes, and pretty soon the car became an integral part of American culture.

Social promises to introduce similar sweeping changes to the way we run our businesses, but not so much by further automating physical production, but rather by harnessing the collective knowledge, expertise and ideas of large numbers of people. That’s how we’ll drive innovation. If the web started out about clicks and eyeballs and search, it’s now about social.  With billions of social connections and expressions, the social web is fueling a knowledge-based economy, and organizations are taking note.

IBM’s Institute for Business Value recently released its global C-suite study, The Customer Activated Enterprise. It reads like a rallying cry for becoming a social business. For example, most C-level executives realize that their organizations are becoming borderless and more porous to outside influence. They’re admitting openly that their best ideas and their greatest innovations may come from people outside of the organization. Fully 90 percent of CxOs plan to collaborate much more extensively with customers over the next three-to-five years. CEOs from all over the world told us that their customers now exert greater influence over business strategy than everyone but the C-suite itself. That means customers now hold more sway than the average board of directors.

I tell every single one of our customers that social networks are their greatest source for inspiration and innovation and therefore, of revenue. Innovation in business is no longer relegated to product development teams or to the C-suite. But businesses need to adopt new business models that tap into the ingenuity and the desires of their customers, and the collective capabilities of their organizations, and then integrate these practices into their strategic planning, from product development to marketing to services and sales. It’s no wonder that we are seeing so many businesses now adopting crowdsourcing to one degree of another! In the new knowledge-based economy, where the customer experience supersedes the value of the product, and where rapid, client-centric innovation is expected, it’s not longer a question of if, it’s a question of when enterprises of all types adopt this aspect of social business as a standard way to operate. THINK Social Business!

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