Companies that understand social networking are more innovative

Social technology have a huge potential to make companies more innovative. Interestingly often there is a big correlation between the innovativeness of a company and the maturity levels companies reach using social networking technology.

The more innovative a company the better they understand the network effect and the wisdom of the crowd.

"Nobody is as smart as everybody!"

Maturity levels in social networking

I've been writing a series of articles on the three maturity levels we see at companies using social technologies. The three levels are:

  1. Reaching people - People primarily use the platform to push information to others. The biggest benefit is the increased reach compared to other channels.

  2. Leveraging the network - People understand the potential of the network and use it to their advantage to tap into the vaste intellectual resource made available through that network.

  3. Faster and more agile - People adopt concepts such as Working out loud or Working in the narrative. The collective awareness increases as does the alignment in the organisation. The rate of decision making increases and the company becomes faster and more agile.

A lot of companies get stuck with enterprise social networks where they either stall in adoption or become overly social. In 99% of the cases the reason for stalling is that they haven't gotten past the first maturity level and are not creating sufficient value.

Previous articles discussed:

  1. Leadership

  2. Communications

  3. Team work

  4. Communities of practice

This article deals with innovation.

Low maturity: Reaching people

In companies where innovation is handled by a small group of people they often use social networks to communicate about innovation. Like in other low maturity areas they share success cases and innovation news. The employees aren’t involved in the process.

This way of managing innovation doesn't make companies particularly innovative.

Medium maturity: Leveraging the network

More mature innovation usage understands the power of engaging the employees in innovation. They believe that the employees are a vast resource of ideas. In the intermediate level companies will organise ideation challenges collecting innovative ideas or solutions to problems from their employees. These challenges focus on early ideas and are framed around the ‘best’ ideas being selected.

High maturity: Faster and more agile

The most mature innovation practices on social platforms are very aligned with the strategic leadership agenda. They use employees in all stages of the innovation funnel: ideation, concepting, prototyping, building, testing, and launching. Employees aren’t used as much to gather ideas, but much more to collect information that can be used to create insights. Based on these insights ideas are shaped or prototypes are improved.

As an example: ‘Please share ideas to improve our customer complaints process.’ is focused on ideas sharing where ‘Please share good and bad examples of other companies dealing with customer complaints.’ is much more about collecting information that can be created into insights later. The latter is much more effective as it creates the foundation upon which good ideas can be developed.

Besides a focus on information gathering the innovation practices are also aligned with the company strategy. Hence, the innovation activities also contribute to employees aligning and engaging with the company strategy and future. There is close coordination with leadership and communication activities.

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