Newcomers to the concept of social business get hung up on the technologies, the shiny new toys that IBM, Jive or Yammer let people play with to improve their internal communications.
But what makes businesses social is not the technologies, it’s the culture. Which the technologies can amplify.
I’ve just finished reading the excellent Steve Jobs biog. One of the things which struck me about how he set up Apple was the architecture of the buildings he created for the company. Architecture actively designed to encourage people to bump into eachother.
Simply to use a toilet some people had to take a 10 minute walk – explicitly because Jobs recognised the benefits of serendipity. Yes there was secrecy involved in product development, but the company was structured so that people working on different things would bump into eachother in massive public spaces. So that random conversations might lead to cross-team collaboration.
All of which fitted neatly into the extremely iterative processes he liked. And which clearly worked.
Yes, there are new technologies now which make it easier for people to ‘bump into eachother’ online. And any number of companies are adopting social business technologies, but we shouldn’t lose sight of the fact that people like dealing with other people – not with departments and structures.
Social business is all about helping to make that happen. About encouraging serendipitous encounters. And about giving people (or in Apple’s case forcing people) to spend time away from the top of their to-do list, just to see what might happen.