At thefuturestory – Today 2014 event last week our discussions started around the definitions, intricacies and uses of Big Data. Our panel of experts provided some fantastic insights into how businesses face the daily challenge of being able to articulate the value of so much data and how that data can be used both internally, as well as externally. Our break-out sessions then led to some very frank discussions around how data could be used for internal sentiment analysis and how that can be applied to gain actionable intelligence for corporate communications. However, at the heart of our discussions was the technology used to gain this information and whether or not the use of these collaborative platforms was beneficial for all organisations.

Below is a summary of what we discussed and some of our conclusions.

 

The digital revolution and the rise of social networking tools have led to many monumental cultural changes in the 21st Century. They have led to seismic shifts in the way businesses communicate, both internally and externally, and whilst Barack Obama is right when he classifies them as “tools for individual empowerment rather than government control”, they are also fundamentally tools for social collaboration.

Businesses can no longer ignore the tidal wave of change that this technology has brought about. At this very second people all over the world are being tasked to not only identify the latest innovations and to analyse the rippling effects they may have on their markets, but to also be the change that their company wants to see in the world.

As the landscape under our feet shifts and changes on what seems like a daily basis, the fear of not being quick or intelligent enough to adapt and capitalise on the latest innovations drives companies away from the traditional approach of “Command & Control”, and instead forces them to loosen their grip on how their employees interact.

Every day we are hearing new reports of how global companies and leaders are adopting a more progressive way of communicating internally and how they are actively breaking down their silos in order to create environments which are geared more towards collaboration, both within and across departments. The word ‘collaboration’ has even started turning up in many companies Values and Mission Statements.

So with this renewed focus on collaboration in the workplace, is it not worth stopping for a second and actually finding out what it means? By this I don’t mean the actual definition of the word, rather what the companies themselves mean by it. The obvious interpretation would be that businesses want their employees to work together to accomplish something - but aren’t they already doing this? Is it automatically beneficial to dismantle an already successful and proven model just because everyone else is? If it isn’t broken…

Then there is also the issue of introducing these collaborative tools into high-risk environments such as banking. Their natural instincts may lead them to adopt a very cautious approach to social media, and some argue this is correct. The wrong piece of information divulged on the wrong platform at the wrong time could have catastrophic consequences for global financial institutions. Others, however, argue that all businesses, especially banks, cannot afford to miss a unique opportunity to listen to what both their consumers and their employees are saying. Trying to control conversations and censor those who level criticism toward them, again both internally and externally, can also be very risky for financial institutions.

So with valid arguments on both sides, what is the best way forward? I guess that depends on a lot of different factors, but ultimately it is up to company leaders to make that decision. All of these new collaborative tools, including social media, are exactly that – they are tools!

All organisations should worry about are their customers, their employees and their story. Focusing on these three things will give companies the answer they require when it comes to using these tools, as well as the wider question regarding collaboration. If it helps you to build, maintain and develop relationships with both your customers and your staff, then it seems like a bit of a no-brainer.

 

Our next event will take place on the 15 October at RADA Studios, so Save the Date now and join us to learn, share, and work out what to do about challenges facing the future workplace.

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