The Social Organization: A book review by Bob Morris

Posted on: April 18th, 2012 by bobmorris

The Social Organization: How to Use Social Media to Tap the Collective Genius of Your Customers and Employees 
Anthony J. Bradley and Mark P. McDonald
Harvard Business Review Press (2011)

How and why organizational success with social media “is fundamentally a leadership and management challenge”

I agree with Anthony Bradley and Mark McDonald that leaders in many (most?) organizations incorrectly assume that success with social media is fundamentally a matter of effective technology implementation. That is important, of course, but the primary challenge is to leadership and management to create “mass collaboration that [in turn] gives organizations unique capabilities to create value for customers, employees, and stakeholders.” Without effective leadership and management, initiatives will fail. Those who doubt that are urged to read Morten Hansen’s latest book, Collaboration: How Leaders Avoid the Traps, Create Unity, and Reap Big. Only through an open and inclusive collaborative process can the use of social media enable any organization to “tap the collective genius” of its stakeholder constituencies

Within 11 chapters and then an Epilogue, Bradley and McDonald provide an abundance of information, insights, and counsel that will help leaders in almost any organization (whatever its size and nature may be) to achieve separate but interdependent strategic objectives that include these:

o Define a compelling vision that inspires and energizes everyone involved
o Formulate a strategy that will guide and inform initiatives that have measurable impact
o Communicate and nourish a clear purpose that everyone supports
o Create or strengthen an environment within which everyone is actively and productively engaged
o Provide enlightened supervision within a structure that nourishes innovative thinking
o Meanwhile, remain flexible and resilient to accommodate change in a timely and effective manner

Bradley and McDonald seem to address all of the “what” involved with achieving these and other objectives. However, their primary focus is really on the “how” and “why” of an immensely complicated process of organizational transformation. The challenges may seem to be the “bad news” but I presume to suggest that there is also “good news.” The open and inclusive collaborative approach that Bradley and McDonald introduce and recommend ensures wide and deep participation of those who possess the talents, skills, and experience needed, both within and outside the given organization; the availability of additional support resources if and when needed; access to the “do’s” and “don’ts” revealed by the real-world experiences of dozens of social organizations discussed in the book; and finally, the approach ensures that the game plan formulated and then implemented is cohesive and comprehensive rather than expedient, fragmented, and inevitably ineffective.

Although there are component segments of valuable counsel inserted in each chapter throughout the lively and eloquent narrative (e.g. “The Three Components of Mass Collaboration” on Page 10-12, “Six Principles of Mass Collaboration” on Pages 12-15, “How a Collaborative Community Works” 0n Pages 16-19, and “New Ways for the Masses to Collaborate” on Pages 19-22″ all in Chapter 2), this is NOT a book to dip in and out of randomly, superficially. As already indicated, Anthony Bradley and Mark McDonald have formulated and now share a cohesive, comprehensive, and cost-effective program that requires close attention, thoughtful consideration, and hopefully rigorous discussion by those who lead the organizational transformation initiatives.

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2 Responses

  1. Great summary of that book. BTW, Morten is also the co-author of a new book with Jim Collins

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