Author: Charlene Li

Publisher: Jossey-Bass, 2010

ISBN-13: 978-0470597262, 336 pages


Social technology is changing the face of business as it changes the core element at the heart of business: relationships. Charlene Li, co-author of the best-selling Groundswell, moves you into tomorrow’s world of business connections with tools, cases studies and practical experience. Some of her examples might seem a bit obvious, but her advice remains sound and grounded in the real world. getAbstract recommends Li’s forward-looking approach to executives, PR leaders and managers of any business seeking greater social technology involvement.

Brave Open World

The Internet and the proliferation of social media foster a more open, transparent public sphere. Most traditional corporations resist increasing their internal and external transparency. They hold outdated beliefs about secrecy and control over their image and internal affairs. Your company needs a robust, customer-facing social media presence to engage the millions of potential customers who connect to Facebook, Twitter and other online apps every day.

This new open environment requires a new, more open leadership style, based on greater flexibility and an expanded comfort zone for criticism and personal sharing. That might disconcert “command and control” leaders and threaten those vested in traditional hierarchies. This takes planning. Openness without a strategy that pursues specific objectives can yield frustrating, and frustratingly expensive, results.

Power has shifted to consumers, who can create their own media and can broadcast opinions to their own networks. Issues that companies fail to address can end up as the subject of viral tirades. But technologies that can undermine your company’s reputation can also provide additional productivity. Recognizing how much control to give up — and where and when to relinquish it — is a hallmark of those who successfully leverage their online platform. To establish meaningful control again, appreciate and embrace the power that other stakeholders can exert. Then determine how you’ll achieve your goals in a new, open environment.

“New rules” of engagement

Your business is based on your relationships with customers, partners and employees. Leading openly means accepting that these stakeholders all have power. Share information often to build trust. If you convey the real values of your organization, you will shape a workforce that acts accordingly. Be curious about and honest with your customers. Consider the perspective of other stakeholders. Communication is a two-way street: Expect civility in exchange.

The aircraft carrier USS Nimitz shows how organizations can be closed and open at the same time. The captain gave a group of visiting bloggers liberty to walk almost anywhere and talk to anyone. The members of his crew understood their mission well enough to know what to talk about and what not to discuss, and, within those unspoken boundaries, they shared freely. The US Navy is open with its information while retaining a strict hierarchy for making decisions.

Openness incorporates four decision-making approaches…

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