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Exploring Why Social Business Will Drive 21st Century Enterprises

Below is an new core visual — which is itself a work-in-progress — for thinking about social business models.  It’s part an ongoing strategic line of thinking that I’ve been developing lately to do some direction finding on strategic uses of social computing.  It’s also part of a new book contribution that I completed today on the underlying future of the Web and business, which I’ll publicly announce as soon as I can.  For a while now, I’ve been trying hard to really dive deep down into the macro conditions that are remaking the enterprise landscape and society as a whole since the downturn.  There are some really fascinating moving parts here, though the full picture is still unclear yet.

So for now this is my best take yet on the subject but it’s far from done and I’ll revise it again soon: There are still some “weak signals” of some very interesting new trends that I’d like to try to isolate and amplify, including 100% borderless enterprises, emerging relationship capital markets, unified social communications, and a few others.  I’ll be exploring these here and elsewhere in the coming months.

This visual captures the fundamental shifts that are happening in the global marketplace today, in particular social business, including the following fundamental transitions:

Non-Social Interaction –> Pervasive Social Interaction
Value in Transactions –> Value in Relationships
Business Stability –> Business Flux
Well-Defined Industries –> Industry Transformation
One-Way (1.0) Markets –> Two-Way (2.0) Markets
Limited Information –> Information Abundance
Resource Abundance –> Resource Constraints

: I get a lot of comments about the resource constraints item in the above list.  The criticism is usually around how we won’t face such constraints in the 21st century, at least in terms of human resources.  I don’t think that’s the case however.  It’s clear that in the 21st century that all resources used in business will have a much higher perceived cost than they do today.  This is more than just the growth of green sensibilities or concerns about renewable resources and sustainability. Rather, it’s likely that as the world gets more developed that even human capacity, which is profoundly tapped into by social business models, may ultimately be constrained like they are in so many advanced countries today by factors such as low birthrates.  This has major consequences for developing nations, which might be able to use social business models for a huge catch-up effort in 10-20 years.  However, my actual point is the that resource abundant environments in today’s businesses will inevitably become strapped when faced over time with economic deflation from non-commercial and highly competitive social business communities which can do so much more with less.  This has happened with commercial software/open source and traditional media/social media, and it’s starting to happen to other industries as well.

I believe the shifts above are being driven by the following forces:

  • Ambient communication – Today, everyone can talk to anyone, just about anywhere for nearly (thought not at) at zero cost.
  • Global information flows – The largest, fastest growing, and most freely flowing source of information available is the Internet.  This trend will only continue into the future as all information platforms move online.
  • Social computing – Social models for communication, collaboration, and business are proving to be more effective and fundamentally better than non-social ones.
  • Market discontinuity – There is both space and demand for major changes in the way we do things in business today.

It originally came from my piece on ZDNet about the twenty-two power laws of the emerging social economy, though I’ve updated it a fair amount here.  I’ll be exploring social business and Enterprise 2.0 much more in the near future.  In the meantime, it’s worth taking a look at these recent pieces as well for more background:

12 Rules For Bringing ‘Social’ To Your Business

Top Ten Issues In Adopting Enterprise Social Computing

The Emerging Case for Open Business Models

Social Business and Next-Generation CIOs – Exploring The Macro Conditions

As always, I greatly value comments below on your thoughts on this and where social business is heading.

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