‘Social’ is a topic that has entered the discourse both in management and IT talk. Perhaps the best example is Salesforce.com. It has popularised the notion that by socialising business you can do better as a business. Is that true?
Next week, I will be debating with Dion Hinchcliffe of Dachis on this topic. Here is the debate landing page from which you can click a button to add it to your calendar. I am taking the ‘against’ part of the debate. My opening remarks are as follows.
The notion of a social enterprise is at best laughable and at worst ridiculous. Enterprises are artificial constructs designed with one purpose – the creation of wealth for the benefit of shareholders. The fact that such enterprises may employ people doesn’t distract from the primary purpose. That’s why we have hierarchies, rules, command and control. They serve to constrain people into behaving rationally and only for the benefit of the enterprise. Some argue that the very fact enterprises require people makes them social. That is a logical fallacy. The notion of a social enterprise is merely the latest in a long line of fashion driven management constructs designed to make employees believe that the enterprise cares. Which of course it doesn’t. Instead it wants to suck more out of its employees. That’s anti-social and makes the whole notion of a social enterprise impossible to achieve.
The remarks will go live on the landing page Friday.
Regular readers who know me as an avid Twitter fan and relentless writer of weblogs might be surprised that I am taking this position. Those who have read some of the success stories that Dion outlines will likely say – but how can you possibly be against the idea?
While the idea sounds enticing, I sense that delivery is much harder than is imagined. There are some tough pre-requisites that have to be in place before any notion of the social enterprise makes sense. And let’s be brutally honest, how many enterprises or institutions can you think of that behave organisationally in such a way that they could be described as social? There is no question we have the tools to get the job gone but I have yet to be convinced that we’re even close to having the methods.
If you find this topic interesting then I’d encourage you to listen to the live debate. It has enormous implications for the future of work, how we will be organised in the future and how things will get done – or not.
As a side note, I am on the Constellation Research Group panel for their next Super Nova awards on the topic of ‘future of work.’