social business design

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Organizational Design is a shiny new business thing. A number of smart brand planners and digital raconteurs have noticed that many corporations are floundering using old org charts and technology. Old infrastructural assumptions. So these new change agents are hoping to consult their way to new revenue streams as org design consultants.

Ten years ago “Social Business Design” was an inchoate business response to poor organization. It attempted to alter business by using digital social tools.  Those tools turned into software and much of the concept was lost. Sure Slack is a cool social tool. Dashboards and marketing platforms have emerged and evolved – mostly to streamline and cut cost. But organizational design, the recasting of the modern business in a way to make it more responsive, agile and effective, though a fine pursuit has been mostly talk.

My consulting business is a brand consultancy. I make no promised to reorganize your business. But organizational design is a likely and probable outcome. 

Defined as “An organizing principle for product, experience and messaging,” brand strategy has the potential to touch everything: supply chain, customer care, manufacturing quality, hiring, and advertising. All are possible levers in brand strategy. 

Brand strategy ain’t what it used to was.



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A number of years ago I subscribed to an advertising magazine called Lurzer’s International Archive.  It showcased the best ads in the world every month. I often found creative people thumbing through Archive looking at pictures and ideas inspiration.

M advertising work in those days was in technology. Often with Bell Labs engineers.  When they didn’t have an answer they would call-a-friend. Sometimes at Bell Labs, other times at PARC, a Xerox research lab in Palo Alto.  Back then engineers were a collegial bunch and helped one another. I loved this science-first worldview. Ad guys and girls would never have reached out to competitive peers to help solve problems.

Now I’m a brand strategist. We are more like Bell Labs engineers than creatives. The science of strategy, for many, comes first. Thanks to social media platforms such as Stack and Facebook, strategists can post questions and have 10 answers by noon. It’s wonderful. Looking for a framework for behavior change? You’ll have editorials, white papers, snark and frivolity from around the world.

Social business design today offers an exciting openness.

It’s a human trait. So is jealousy and greed. Openness is winning me thinks. Enjoy.



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There are a couple of really smart consulting companies I’ve been following for a few years: The Altimeter Group and Dachis Group. The latter gave birth to a concept called “social business design” and the former more recently codified a similar practice they call “social business.”

Following Dachis Group from a far, it was my view that they should monetize by selling software.  Build it once, charge forever. Consult regarding the need for a new, more efficient way to do business then sell proprietary software that enables it. This approach is one with which Accenture’s has had great success.

Altimeter, on the other hand, is all about the consults and the hourlies. When you don’t have to push your own product, it appears cleaner to customers. Selling knowledge and providing the groundwork for companies to heal themselves is viable and healthy.

There is room for both approaches and each company has a long list of blue chip clients. Today in this very digital world there is enough pie to go around.

Because marketing is at the center of all things business and because brands are the drivers of what is marketed, there is big room at the table for brand planning. (You saw that one coming.)  In fact, social business without brand planning can sometimes be little more than a loose federation of processes, tools and measures.  Organizing everything with a principle that sells more, to more, for more, more often is the last mile of social business.  Peace.

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(To be read in Alan Iverson’s voice.)

The collaborative economy is bullshit. Sorry Jeremiah.  The craft economy is not bullshit. Social business is bullshit. Social business design is not.  You see talking about talking or talking about doing isn’t doing. Doing is.  WTI readers know I’m all about organizing a brand before putting it into action, but that presumes action.

Imagine living in a hunter and gatherer society and having to listen to a guy is sitting on a stump telling everyone how to hunt, without him ever picking up a spear or arrow.  Or listening to him tell people how to cultivate without getting his ample butt into the fields. There are tons of people today in the social media realm who love to paste other people’s stuff. Collaboration?  Tons more who love to bloviate without really giving away actionable secrets.  Collaboration economy? Is it collaborative to write a vanity press book on collaboration?

Here’s a Benjamin Franklin rule.  Hang out with doers.  People who lead by example. Who get their hands dirty.  You will easily recognize them…they don’t talk about preparing to get their hands dirty. Or hand-dirtying processes. They don’t share charts on hands and more charts on dirty. They are too busy in the muck.  Learning by pushing and selling and talking about it to other doers. 

Please don’t take this screed as being about autonomy and working in a vacuum. I am just suggesting a business person with a plan, a hypothesis, and a doer mentality is a faster learner, better teacher and someone who makes better decisions.  The economy is not driven by collaboration. The economy is driven by people who put the puck in the hoop/net/goal. Peace.

(PS. Jeremiah is really, really smart. I’m leaving his last name off, because I don’t want to pizzle him off. But he knows consultants are paid for tangible recommendations, not collaboration.)

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Though I don’t completely understand what goes on behind the walls of the Dachis Group in Austin, TX, I’m a big fan of their consulting practice and pursuit of Social Business Design.  Having lived in the space contiguous to the one they’re trying to reinvent — creating more effective businesses through improved web 2.0 collaboration – I like how they have outlined the category and believe their Social Business Design terminology will stick. Like ERP.

They have money, are willing to spend it, and have a client list to die for.

Peter Kim, an early group member, wrote a post talking about the speed with which some companies are implementing social business change.  Much of the work his company does is with large enterprises but large enterprises are like battleships when it comes to new stuff.  I wonder if the Dachis Group might speed up adoption of its services by serving early adopter small and mid-size businesses – the first to rebound in an economic recovery.  Talk about the need to do more with less.  A small business practice at Dachis might also help inform the enterprise group and cover more of the business ecosystem.  A thought. Peace!

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Two Cs

Two business trends are happening today, both accelerated due to the web — one is good, one not so. They are collaboration and crowdsourcing.  Their shared intention is the production of good, efficient work.

In the case of collaboration the work is done by more than one party and web tools are used which put more information at the fingertips of participants. Many minds work together toward a goal, feeding off of one another.  Smart companies like the Dachis Group in Austin are playing here; they call their product Social Business Design. Collaborative software has been around since the 90s but it was more about cursor sharing and application sharing than a delve into the culture of collaboration. The new view is about changing the tools and the process.

Crowdsourcing, on the other hand, is a project jump ball where participants compete against one another for a cash prize.  It is often the antithesis of collaboration.  The pay is poor (but not always) and the work product quite variable. In the case of a crowdsourced logo design, for instance, a number of art directors are briefed and the winning logo designer is awarded some Benjamins. (A good professional logo goes for thousands.) The losers click home. Crowdsourcing is leading to crowdsouring, but it still is a growing practice. In defense of crowdsourcing, at the high-end, with really talented players and a fair remuneration, it can work effectively.

Two trends to watch. Peace!

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The just published Deloitte “2009 Tribalization of Business” study positions them as a leader in this very fertile space — certainly as a leader among the big consulting companies. Here’s a boildown on the findings.

Telling enterprises to build “communities” or “social networks” within the company is a hard sell. The words here matter and currently connote the wrong things.

The people most comfortable with current enterprise “worker nets” are the Millennials and mega nerds. Some successes in terms of efficiency improvements are being recorded by these companies but the clean-up batters aren’t really participating and that is the tipping point challenge.

American enterprise and individualism is keeping people from sharing, for fear that others will take credit and they will not benefit financially or career-wise. “Me first, company second.”  This needs to change.

Social Business Design (coined by the Dachis Group) is the best definition I’ve heard so far for this technology and behavior pursuit – a pursuit that will alter business as we know it. It may not be long before Social Business Design becomes an acronym. (A shame said the junior high kid within.)

These are exciting times, and I’m glad Deloitte is doing good research work here, with this second study on the topic. Tomorrow, tune in for some ideas about how to get the clean-up hitters involved. Peace!

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lab equipment

I attended a free webinar sponsored by the Altimeter Group (thank you Charlene Li and crew) and Ray Wang said something that really stuck. He said all the innovation in technology over the last couple of years , certainly on the Web, has come on the consumer or user side – not from the enterprise. With the exception of Apple, this is pretty dead on. I’m no Faith Popcorn, but in my view this is due to something I call the webertarian ethos – the need for people and in this case developers, to be free of corporate chains when they create.

I’ve written before that I think the Dachis Corporation and its Social Business Design concept will accelerate the cure for cancer. When we get a world of scientists and physicians working together on a project we are likely to get some serious innovation, logic disruption, and progress. Even if they work together only on weekends. Social Business Design products and their free cousins will provide a webertarian-like platform over which meaningful global change will happen. And on that happy note, I bid you… Peace!

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If you were to weigh all of the editorial that has been written about the Internet – the most exciting, disruptive communications platform ever created – I bet 75% of that edit would be about how it is tearing the stomach out of "old school" media ventures. Skype is killing telephone company landline revenue. Peer-to-peer music services have killed CD sales. Craigslist has halved newspaper classified revenue. Email has us on the verge of a 4-day postal service. Need I go on?


Not enough has been written about the money making side of the Internet…and that’s because there’s not a lot of that going on.  If Web 1.0 was about ubiquity and connectivity and Web 2.0 is/was about usability, search and community, then Web (dare I type it) 3.0 is about revenue.


What is going on at the Enterprise 2.0 Conference this week in Boston is all about revenue. Not about selling widgets or hard and soft goods but about how to make companies more efficient. The real breakthrough after companies are more efficient will be innovation. Innovation the likes of which we have never before seen.  We will cure cancer, solve the energy crisis and even morph into a more peaceful planet when we create “social business design” solutions for our planet. (Thanks Dachis Corporation.) Oh yeah, it will create lots of money for corporations, too.


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I’m a bit of a stalker and one gentleman I’ve been following the last couple of years is Jeff Dachis. Jeff started Razorfish, a pioneering digital agency, and the words "big thinker" are an understatement when describing him. Anyone who has been involved with large corporations the last 20 years knows they are not particularly fine-tuned machines. With good leadership and good structure corporations can outperform competitors, but there is still a good deal of waste and me-ism, keeping productivity down. Jeff Dachis knows this, and has a plan.


Mr. Dachis and his bullpen of strategic thinkers (Peter Kim, David Armano, Kate Niederhoffer, and Jevon MacDonald) have been trying to wrap their heads around this inefficient corporation for a year now and today made an announcement coinciding with the Enterprise 2.0 Conference in Boston today.


It is fascinating to see how each of the Dachis strategists frame the new, still-to-be-named product. (To do so, please check out their links today at The explanations are the same, yet different. You can tell who came from which discipline in their posts.  


First off I love what they are calling the product category “Social Business Design.”  It’s descriptive, implies a benefit and is understandable. That’s the IS in the Is/Does. But here is a graphic schematic of the DOES. Hee hee. No one said redesigning business in a 2.0 world was going to be easy. Peace!  





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