How smart CEOs use so­cial tools to their ad­van­tage

Finweek English Edition - - INSIDE - BY ROBERT J THOMAS AND YAARIT SIL­VER­STONE

Ad­vances in dig­i­tal tech­nol­ogy and their use in or­gan­i­sa­tions carry huge prom­ise to em­power peo­ple at all lev­els. So­cial me­dia a nd col­lab­o­ra­tion tools not only open the door to faster and more ex­ten­sive knowl­edge-shar­ing, they also fa­cil­i­tate level- sk ip­ping con­ver­sa­tions, si lo­bust­ing and self-or­gan­i­sa­tion.

But with­out an or­gan­i­sa­tion-wide un­der­stand­ing of what’s good for the busi­ness and what’s not, th­ese pow­er­ful tools can be danger­ous. Em­pow­er­ment – in what­ever form – re­quires align­ment around pur­pose, strate­gic in­tent and the bound­aries within which de­ci­sions can be made.

Savvy CEOs use f ire to f ight f ire, ef­fec­tively em­ploy­ing dig­i­tal me­dia in­side their or­gan­i­sa­tions to cre­ate the

kind of align­ment and shared pur­pose they need. In our re­search, we find that smart lead­ers do th­ese three things:

TUNE INTO GLOBAL CON­VER­SA­TIONS

It may s eem odd to r efer to t he daily tor­rent of emails, t weets and posts as con­ver­sa­tions, but they are. Col­lab­o­ra­tion soft­ware and mo­bile apps make it pos­si­ble for th­ese con­ver­sa­tions to connect prac­ti­cally ever yone in the or­gan­i­sa­tion – and to dis­trib­ute in­for­ma­tion and author­ity much wider than ever be­fore.

Rather than be paral­ysed by fear about who has ac­cess to what, savvy lead­ers recog­nise t hat i nfor­ma­tion can em­power em­ploy­ees to move the busi­ness closer to cus­tomers, de­ci­sion­mak­ing can be ac­cel­er­ated when vi­tal data is not held hostage (or lost) and vis­i­ble con­ver­sa­tions can pre­vent wasted ef­fort and even spark in­no­va­tion.

For ex­am­ple, Mi­crosoft IT lead­ers take their or­gan­i­sa­tion’s pulse us­ing analy t ica l soft ware t hat mon­i­tors t rend­ing top­ics in their Yam­mer col­lab­o­ra­tion space. Ac­cord­ing to Mi­crosoft, the goal is to ab­sorb and re­spond to real-time sen­ti­ments.

Smart lead­ers lis­ten a head by in­sert­ing ques­tions that stim­u­late or re­di­rect the con­ver­sa­tion. Sales­force. com CEO Marc Be­nioff ac­tively par­tic­i­pates in con­ver­sa­tion threads in or­der to stir the pot and keep cur­rent on the ways pro­gram­mers and cus­tomers test the lim­its of his com­pany’s prod­ucts. His goal is to es­tab­lish a pres­ence that re­li­ably rep­re­sents who he is and what he stands for so that in the de­cen­tralised world of au­ton­o­mous teams, peo­ple can for­mu­late strat­egy, make de­ci­sions and deal with am­bi­gu­ity.

LEVER­AGE GLOBAL NET­WORKS

CEOs need to choose the most ef­fec­tive inf lu­ence chan­nels through which to cre­ate align­ment. In­ter­est­ingly, it ’s here that an old and ven­er­a­ble fea­ture of or­gan­i­sa­tions – in­for­mal net­works – takes on new promi­nence with so­cial me­dia. When re­searchers con­duct so­cial net­work analy­ses, ex­ec­u­tives of­ten can­not name even half of the “cen­tral con­nec­tors” (peo­ple to whom oth­ers turn for in­for­ma­tion and ad­vice, in other words, the in­flu­encers) in their or­gan­i­sa­tions.

In the dig­i­tal en­ter prise, t hat un­known other half could t urn out to be crit­i­cal to es­tab­lish­ing new di­rec­tions about pur­pose, in­tent and bound­aries. Soon, lead­ers will be able to see and tap into inf lu­ence net­works in­side their or­gan­i­sa­tions us­ing tools sim­i­lar to those avail­able on Face­book and LinkedIn.

As well as know­ing who’s who in an or­gan­i­sa­tional net­work, lead­ers need to be alert to the blind spots that may ex­ist in their own per­sonal net­works. A study of a multi­na­tional phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal com­pany re­vealed that lead­ers in its US sub­sidiary’s net­works were skewed to ‘ familiar’ faces: peo­ple from sim­i­lar func­tional back­grounds, hi­er­ar­chi­cal lev­els, and cul­tural and gen­der groups. Their net works kept diver­gent or con­tro­ver­sial news from get­ting in and hin­dered their abil­ity to get im­por­tant mes­sages out.

DEEPEN THE DIA­LOGUE

It is well un­der­stood that a leader’s abil­ity to ar­tic­u­late strate­gic pri­or­i­ties in a com­pelling way can mean the dif­fer­ence be­tween mov­ing fast in a com­mon di­rec­tion and spin­ning in place. How­ever, trac­tion de­pends on the rich­ness and the ac­ces­si­bil­ity of the leader’s think­ing. One emer­gent use of so­cial me­dia is a new sort of lead­er­ship mind map – es­sen­tially a model of the CEO’s key ideas ac­ces­si­ble to any cor­ner of the or­gan­i­sa­tion.

Pop­u­larised in the 1980s, mind-map­ping was de­signed as a vis­ual tech­nique for i ndi­vid­u­als to ar­ray top­ics of in­ter­est. Now, pro­gram­mers are re­plac­ing hand-drawn di­a­grams with dig­i­tal il­lus­tra­tions con­nected to data­bases that can be eas­ily ac­cessed and queried.

Un­til now, the big­gest draw­back to mind-map­ping has been the amount of time it takes to build a ‘ brain’ and keep it cur­rent. How­ever, se­man­tic soft­ware and un­struc­tured data an­a­lyt­ics tools are mak­ing it pos­si­ble to scan speeches, memos and blog en­tries to au­to­mate the cre­ation of mind maps and, by ex­ten­sion, to cre­ate leader brains that em­ploy­ees can ac­cess and ex­plore.

The im­pli­ca­tions are clear: s avvy lead­ers make the most of dig­i­tal tech­nol­ogy to gal­vanise their or­gan­i­sa­tion around a shared un­der­stand­ing of the busi ness. When lead­ers use so­cial me­dia to tap into the con­ver­sa­tions within their or­gan­i­sa­tions and iden­tify those that gen­er­ate the most en­ergy or emo­tion, they can al­lo­cate their at­ten­tion and their in­ter­ven­tions with greater im­pact. When lead­ers are able to en­gage with so­cial net­works, they will be able to in­ter­act with their or­gan­i­sa­tion the way a sym­phony con­duc­tor does – in real time with nu­anced or di­rect i nter ven­tion depend­ing on what’s needed. And when lead­ers can share how they think about a prob­lem – with many peo­ple at once and with­out even be­ing there – ev­ery­one in the or­gan­i­sa­tion has a bet­ter un­der­stand­ing of where the or­gan­i­sa­tion is go­ing and why.

POP­U­LARISED IN THE 1980S, MIND-MAP­PING WAS DE­SIGNED AS A VIS­UAL TECH­NIQUE FOR IN­DI­VID­U­ALS TO AR­RAY TOP­ICS OF IN­TER­EST. NOW, PRO­GRAM­MERS ARE RE­PLAC­ING HAND­DRAWN DI­A­GRAMS WITH DIG­I­TAL IL­LUS­TRA­TIONS CON­NECTED TO DATA­BASES THAT CAN BE EAS­ILY AC­CESSED AND QUERIED.

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