Emergent outcomes

Last week, I wrote about my company’s thinking about social media, technology and why it’s time to transform.  Here’s another idea worth elevating and reblogging to continue the discussion.

The end goal is businesses that achieve their objectives faster, cheaper, smarter, etc. It isn’t to build a social business. A social business is a viable means to an end, but not an end unto itself.

Agreed – business is about the bottom line.  Within a relevant time horizon, every manager wants to increase revenue, decrease expense, and manage risk.  A business has a vision and mission. Managers are guided by this end goal and raison d’ĂȘtre, employing resources according to strategic plans and budget constraints to produce expected outcomes.

But doing business socially changes the nature of outcomes.  We know how things work today – siloed, linear, traditional.  Transformation entails changing process, altering mindsets, and broadening reach with technology to produce outcomes much more valuable than expected.

In 1909, Henry Ford said, “Any customer can have a car painted in any colour that he wants so long as it is black.”  In the 1990’s mass customization was in vogue, as if customers really had a choice.  In 2009, we are in the world of democratized innovation as described by Eric Von Hippel (you can download his books for free, too!).

Operating a social business structure is an interim end, similar to operating a secure network environment, maintaining high workforce morale, and running an efficient process workflow.

With a social infrastructure in place, a company will manage its resources with best efforts to produce intended, or expected, outcomes.  In addition, the transformation will produce emergent outcomes.  Doing business differently will produce different results:  product breakthroughs, process improvements, and broader interpersonal connections.

We’ve seen what some companies can do with crowdsourcing in a controlled environment.  What will happen when every department in your company has the ability to do something similar?  For starters, visions and missions will have to change.  We should see divestitures and spin-offs of business units that are suddenly non-core.  No one will pretend that “customers are in control” – because we’ll have a healthy, balanced relationship between producers and consumers.

Instead of burning cycles to ensure the production of expected outcomes, companies will thrive by seeking and capitalizing on emergent outcomes.