Social (Media) Darwinism

By Joe Shepley posted 04-13-2011 18:23


I had a really interesting conversation with a client last week who was describing how their organization’s moving away from videoconferencing. They had been all in on the technology a few years back, but they recently decided that it had low value for most employees. When they collaborate on distributed teams, he said that seeing the smiling faces of the other team is far less important than sharing the content that they’re collaborating on.

In response, web sharing is fast replacing videoconferences at his organization, but he also described how during the videoconferences that still take place, folks will point the webcam on their laptops to the whiteboard (or snap a photo with a smart phone and text it) so that the folks on the call can see what they’re writing or drawing and collaborate on it.

This is a great example of the ubiquitous human behavior of adapting things to our use. Paco Underhill, widely regarded as the father of the science of shopping, talks frequently about how stores can learn important things about their customers by how they adapt the shopping environment to their needs, e.g., if they’re opening lots of a certain product to touch or smell it, they clearly need a sample to make their buying decision…so give them one.

And while I think this client was right when he reasoned that folks are more interested in content than smiling faces, the conversation got me thinking more broadly about adaptive behavior and the future of social business platforms.

Getting Vertical

It’s no secret that most social business platforms are mile wide and inch deep when it comes to addressing specific business scenarios. No doubt part of this is because they’re platforms rather than point solutions; but I also think that it has something to do with the relative immaturity of enterprise collaboration as a discipline.

Really, we’re still working out the specific business activities and scenarios that enterprise collaboration tools will impact and how. We have some ideas in general, but we’re nowhere near as clear as we are in other areas, e.g., how ERP tools impact financial or supply chain processes.

Given this, I think it’s a safe bet that in five years, social business platforms will look much more verticalized than they do now (ala today’s ERP systems).

But in the meantime, I wonder whether human adaptive behavior will begin to transform social business platforms as my client described the shift from videoconferencing, i.e., take the general notion of collaboration these tools are designed to support and “turn the web cam around” to make them address more specific, verticalized business needs?

My guess is that, yes, we will adapt them to our needs, but then the question becomes how.

No brilliant insights on what that might look like, but I am excited to see where we end up.

How about you folks out there: have any brilliant ideas of your own on where we humans might adapt social business platforms? Have any good examples of this kind of adaptation ripped from the pages of real life?

Jump in and let’s get the conversation started!

#E20 #PacoUnderhill