by Josh Bernoff
Our new book (at publisher now, due in September) will be called:Empowered: Unleash your employees, energize your customers, and transform your business
The reason we changed the title is to emphasize the new focus, which is actually getting stuff done. Our thesis is this:
If you want to succeed with empowered customers, you must empower your employees to solve their problems.
We call these empowered employees HEROes (highly empowered and resourceful operatives) and they're the reason for the book. From working with many, many companies on social technology projects, we've found that the hard part is not just the strategy. The really hard part is running your organization in such a way that empowered employees can actually use technology to solve customer problems. Over and over again, we find these HEROes hamstrung by their own companies. No amount of shouting or idealism can solve this problem, since it goes to the heart of how companies run.
But you can't just let people in your company build whatever they want. You need a new way of managing to get creativity without chaos.
Three groups need to work together: the HEROes themselves, their management, and IT. All three must change their roles. At the center of the book is a new idea we call the HERO Compact.
If you work for a company bigger than about 30 people and you actually want to get stuff done, you and your company have to pay attention to this. Social and other technology projects challenge the status quo.
The HEROes themselves may be building mobile applications, creating a viral videos, or building a community. Regardless, they can't just go and do stuff -- they must do it in a way that benefits the corporation. So their job is to understand what their customers need, come up with solutions, and do it in such a way that they don't threaten corporate strategy or information security.
Management used to shut this "unauthorized" activity down, but were rewarded with worker that just did their jobs -- which is not good enough in the age of the groundswell. If you're a manager wondering how to get more creative solutions out of your staff, this post (and this book) is for you. You must constantly communicate that innovation is a priority and reward it, including things that fail. You need to run interference for your workers with groups like PR and IT. But you also need to assess and manage risks from these projects, and set clear corporate priorities that your HEROes can follow.
IT departments are in transition from managing big technology projects to, often, supporting projects created by HEROes in marketing, sales, customer service, or elsewhere. IT's new role must shift to being the trusted advisor to these folks. They need to help manage security risks and keep the HEROes safe. And when projects need to get up to IT-level scale, they need to help scale them up.
This is a new way of running a company, folks. It values innovation over locked-down policies, and it threatens people who to keep doing things as they always have. But in a world where customers have so much power through social, mobile, and other technologies, it's the only way to survive. If you want to move at the speed of the groundswell, you have to support your HEROes.