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What's your burning platform?

02.15.2013
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Why do you start down the road of becoming a social business?  What exactly is it that prompts you on that path?  Some may do it to keep up with what appears fashionable.  Others may have been cajoled into it by a consultant.  Forrester however believe that the best social business transformations begin with a crisis.

They’ve produced a report, called The Road To Social Business Starts With A Burning Platform, where they outline the motivations for undertaking social transformations.  To do this they analysed the social business initiatives of four companies and in particular what prompted them to start each project.

The importance of adaptive behavior

Of particular interest was the value attributed to an adaptive approach to social business.  Forrester data suggests that perhaps 1/3 of all employees will be receptive to social changes, with another 1/3 actively resisting the change.  This really underlines the importance of employing an experimental approach to social business so that the initial projects are small enough to fail without casting the entire project onto the scrapheap.

Of course to achieve this it requires not only adaptive thinking from those within the organisation but also adaptive thinking from technology partners.  It’s very unlikely that an out of the box solution will do the job, and it’s crucial that the technology partner/s buy in to the experimental approach rather than thinking all problems will be anticipated through logical mapping.  Instead, Forrester outline a roadmap that’s interconnected and interactive, with each iteration providing improvements.

This approach then allows you to find things that really provide benefits to how people work, and subsequently provide financial gains for the business.  These tangible results, plus of course the internal champions that underpinned those results, will be much more effective in persuading the laggards to adopt social practice than any senior level directive.

Finding your burning platform

Another key part of this narrative is to find your burning platform, or in other words a critical issue that demands people break with the status quo.  It’s a vivid metaphor that brings to mind a choice between certain death or a bold but risky future.  It suggests that whilst change may be costly, staying the same will be even more so.

The key characteristic that distinguishes a decision made in a burning platform situation from all other decisions is not the degree of reason of emotion involved, but the level of resolve. When an organisation is on a burning platform, the decision to make a major change is not just a good idea – it is a business imperative.

So coupling the burning platform with an adaptive approach provides a two pronged attack designed to change organisational behaviour.  The burning platform provides the rationale and the motivation to change, whilst the results gained through your small scale experiments provide both the direction and the champions for that change in order to lead the organisation towards its new future.