Social business, culture and value creation #sbs2010

I attended the Social Business Summit today in Sydney and had the privilege of being on a panel that discussed Transparency – Risk To The Business Or Not?

small-rabbit.jpgApart from Nicholas Gruen’s excellent incorporation of Hayek into his discussion there was much food for thought. A copy of my slides is up on Slideshare.

In particular, the idea that brands and financial value are created in large part by organisational culture resonated for me.

We’ve been conditioned by the bean counters that value in business is created by a mechanical process of creating and selling products or services.

But that mechanical process rests upon human beings doing things. Human beings work out what to do based on cultural norms. And workplaces have very strong and resilient cultures.

I had a great example of the resilience of organisational culture last year. When I returned to a place where I’d worked almost a decade ago it was surprising to see how little the culture had changed since that time. In spite of many corporate change programs over the years (and probably lots of funds invested in those programs) the culture was essentially the same as when I’d left.

There is nothing wrong with that (actually that organisation has a pretty nice culture); but it was a graphic demonstration of how resilient it was in the face of efforts to change the culture.

It is clear to me that the creation of value by organisations rests upon the corporate culture. The culture drives the manner and form by means of which the products or services are created.

Zappos is the great example of how creation of a particular kind of corporate culture also drove creation of a highly valuable brand.

This kind of example means that sensible people in leadership positions need to be thinking about how they can work with the existing organisational culture to create more value for their brands.

Handing Your Brand To The Consumer

We had a really good discussion on this topic in our panel session this morning at ad:tech Sydney. The topic was Handing Your Brand To The Consumer: Are You Willing To Let Go?

The distinguished panel members were: Charis Palmer, Managing Editor, Online Banking Review; Jackie Maxted, CEO, beautyheaven.com.au; and Gareth Llewellyn, Corporate Communications Manager, Oracle Australia.

Starting with the proposition that any control over brands in the past was merely an illusion we heard some case studies from Gareth & Jackie. Then we segued into an interesting conversation about some of the issues.

The wide ranging discussion covered areas such as risk and resourcing for online activities like blogging and social networking for business.

Another important topic was getting the tone right and the importance of a relaxed culture vs. corporate tone, and informal vs. formal messaging.

Other considerations included transparency versus legal & compliance issues – especially for banking and other highly regulated industries.

The consensus was that brands are out of our hands to a certain extent anyhow, so it is better to engage on your own terms and start a conversation with consumers. And listening was seen as a critical starting point to the dialogue.

A big thank-you to the panel, they did a great job in bringing out key lessons learned and issues for consideration before embarking on this kind of corporate journey. Will try to blog some more about this later as the panel had some good ideas.