Gartner says that a social business is one that provides “sustained value” through pulling together “talent, interests, experience, insights and knowledge”. But buried underneath this advice are requirements that must be uncovered if businesses have any hope of putting it to work. We talked about talent and interests before. Let’s take a brief look at experience.
Experience means the historically aggregated exposure to and interaction with a subject area. Malcolm Gladwell says that to become an expert at something, you need to put in about 10,000 hours. An organization may have one or two true “Gladwellian” experts if they are lucky. But if you can pull together experienced individuals in a way that combines their talent and interests and provide a context that combines insight and knowledge then you may get close. Gartner says combining in this way makes a social business. It can also create a collaborative team that acts as a virtual expert meeting all of Gladwell’s criteria and looking like a Surowieckian “wise crowd”
Imagine 3 employees: Mary the project manager, George the support tech and Ben the line machinist. Some might say that Mary was hired to be a project manager not a product manager, that George is supposed to take support phone calls and not create sales messaging and that Ben is there to operate the line machinery not figure out efficiency processes.
Yet the concept of the wisdom of crowds, popularized by James Surowiecki in his book of the same name, suggests the opposite. It’s not that Mary or George or Ben are able to be equal replacements for established experts in their problem domains. Rather, it’s that if you first allow and then evaluate the combined inputs of Mary, George, Ben, and the experts, the resulting output will be better than the single opinion of the expert.
In order for the individuals to successfully combine into a wise crowd, Surowiecki states that four criteria must be met. First, each person in the group should have their own independent opinions. Second, each person should be free from peer pressure and group-think. Third all the members must be sufficiently diverse to bring their unique, domain specific knowledge to the issue. This is where critical mass and social business technology really help boost effectiveness. Finally some tool or process must exist to aggregate the opinions and bring them to the group for evaluation and final decision making.
If you tap the enterprise brain rather than only the enterprise expert’s brain, your results will be better and more apt to succeed. This is what Gartner sees as the result of pulling together experience along with the other ingredients of social business.