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How Social Business Encourages Creativity and Productivity

Illustration by Martin Sati

Social business is giving a new twist to the adage: “It’s not what you know, but who you know.” In organizations with a social business culture, successful employees are networking and using social tools to find the answers they need to provide value to the business. These employees understand that who they know will help them find the information they need to do a better job.

A social business has a culture that encourages employees to be creative and productive through the use of social tools. It fosters open communication to make collaboration and the open exchange of ideas possible and profitable.

Being a social business isn’t new, says Louis Richardson, IBM Worldwide Social Business evangelist and storyteller. “Social is sharing ideas, communicating with one another, sharing what you’ve created, and gathering around topics and concerns. These are all things that we’ve done in business since day one.”

Increasingly, employees and companies are overwhelmed by the volume of information and ideas coming in each day. Being overwhelmed can be painful. Companies are looking for the relief that social business provides. Rather than being a vitamin to make you feel better, “social is an aspirin. It solves pain,” Richardson says. The pain may be spending too much time on email and in meetings or being slow to respond to your customers. Social business can address these pain points. “Once people see how social can help their business, they want it,” he says.

Thriving, Not Surviving

Providing the capability to more quickly respond to customers is just one area where social business can alleviate pain. Today’s customers expect to receive a response from a company within an hour. “You can’t rely on the typical old processes within a company and expect to meet a customer’s expectation,” says Matt Ridings, CEO of the social business consulting firm SideraWorks. “Becoming a social business is important if you want to thrive, not just survive, in this new environment.”

Ridings sees six traits common to every social business:

  1. Agility—balancing the response to the customer with the right communication
  2. Openness—communicating across organizational lines
  3. Empowerment—encouraging communities to develop within the company to solve business problems
  4. Smart connectivity—integrating and deploying to remove barriers to communication
  5. Active intelligence—listening to colleagues and customers
  6. Adaptability—designing a flexible organization that can adapt quickly

Each helps employees do a better job. Because these traits are interdependent, the flow of ideas and communication is much more fluid in a social business. That’s why becoming a social business is more than gathering information and knowledge; it’s a cultural change.

Shirley S. Savage is a Maine-based freelance writer. Shirley can be reached at



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