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9/6/2013
11:26 AM
Vala Afshar
Vala Afshar
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Picturing Your Social Business In 2020

What will a "social business" look like seven years from now? For starters, the CIO will have a transformed role.

HR will need to prepare to fill positions that don't even exist today. One of eight new-age jobs described by journalist Ben Schiller is that of corporate disorganizer," or someone who taps into "new systems of the collaborative economy, creating greater fragmentation and a more distributed ecosystem." Perhaps that person will report to the chief jargon officer.

In organizational structure, businesses in 2020 will progress beyond flat to what Marina Gorbis of the Institute for the Future calls superstructed. Enabled by new social media platforms, superstructed organizations reach outside traditional company boundaries to tap into collective intelligence. They foster extreme collaboration and achieve whatever scale is necessary to compete in their markets. This structure can involve thousands of people in activities such as science games (consider Foldit or Galaxy Zoo) to collectively solve mega-scale problems.

As businesses become more collaborative and as Generation C -- a term for the "connected" generation coined by Altimeter Group's Brian Solis -- takes over, the marketing function will become more critical to business success. Customer experience and vendor reputation will mean everything.

Customers want a "value exchange" involving less selling and more conversations and storytelling. Information will flow in two directions: Both seller and buyer will have a public rating and reputation just as they do now on eBay. These changes will eliminate interruption marketing, according to Harvard Business Review blogger Dana Rousmaniere, the current practice of invasive advertising, unsolicited emails, telemarketing and unwelcome direct mail.

Analysis of huge volumes of customer data will help businesses provide an almost-custom product or experience. The marketing functions of defining product features and setting prices will become more automated and take place in near real time. In fact, Amazon.com already adjusts its pricing up to nine times a day.

The Gen-C quest for a superior customer experience will drive marketing into even closer alignment with customer support. Sales will depend on customers' positive social commentaries about their product experience. They'll buy based on the personality, motivations and ethos of the company.

But it won't stop there: After a product is purchased, it will self-monitor and autocorrect most faults, as well as auto-update its design to prevent a recurrence. When the product is unable to heal itself, fully emergent virtual reality systems will connect the customer with support, engineering and technology partners as appropriate.

Today, software fixes and updates are applied to products nearly instantly. By 2020, replacement or updated mechanical parts will be created by a 3-D printer at the customer's site. When that's not possible, the customer will promptly receive parts via driverless delivery vehicles.

So how can businesses maximize their chances of thriving up to and beyond 2020? Embracing the principles of social business is an important step. Although businesses in the future will not be called "social," those that resist social won't survive.

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csrollyson
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csrollyson,
User Rank: Apprentice
10/1/2013 | 6:54:57 PM
re: Picturing Your Social Business In 2020
@Vala, thanks for an awesome, pithy call to action! As a corporate (social business) strategy consultant, I agree with your thesis here, that businesses need to get social and digital to survive, and they need to be aggressive if they want to thrive. For all readers who may feel afraid of machines displacing humans in many current jobs, I'll offer these insights.

Most people don't realize it, but a lot of what we still regard as "management" will be unnecessary. Because the global economy is dominated by large, complex organizations, a lot of management and coordination have been required to keep the balls in the air. I agree with Vala that orgs and networks will increasingly self-manage. Bad news for people who like relatively well paid administrivia jobs (and they do have their charm).

The good news is, the puck is going to a far more fun, creative place. The catch is, to thrive in the "Creative Class" (google Richard Florida), people need to awaken the right sides of their brains, which have too often atrophied. My new book, The Social Channel, posits that, as long as humans are the customers (instead of machines), people have nothing to worry about because people will always value the incremental value that only other people can give. Machines will get more humanlike, but people will discount their value *because* they are machines. Customer "experience" will be the bedrock of the Knowledge Economy, not what we used to think of as products.

@Vala, how would you advise people to prepare? My crystal ball says, get as close to the human elements of experience and differentiation as possible. Machines will always be inferior there.
Laurianne
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Laurianne,
User Rank: Author
9/11/2013 | 7:39:35 PM
re: Picturing Your Social Business In 2020
This paints a ratings-heavy picture that will stress out many people. The social business of 2020 will face that challenge, too.
bnilsson018
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bnilsson018,
User Rank: Apprentice
9/11/2013 | 3:04:27 AM
re: Picturing Your Social Business In 2020
Combine the benefits of internal collaboration as well as extended collaboration (collective intelligence) available to social businesses with the sorts of machine-to-machine communication referenced by Chris Murphy above, and you have an unstoppable competitive advantage over non-social businesses.

The changes and new technologies coming between now and 2020 only play into the strengths of the social business. Even with these technologies, a non-social business is at a crippling disadvantage in understanding and delivering the customer experience demanded by Gen-C.
ChrisMurphy
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ChrisMurphy,
User Rank: Author
9/10/2013 | 10:11:50 PM
re: Picturing Your Social Business In 2020
Of all these trends, the most powerful to me is this passive collection of data. Set aside the privacy concerns a minute and think what that means for companies and for consumer expectations for product performance. How can you not know that my car stopped working, it died three hours ago?
David F. Carr
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David F. Carr,
User Rank: Author
9/10/2013 | 9:28:52 PM
re: Picturing Your Social Business In 2020
How much does the social element of social business really have to do with this picture of the future? Seems more like a sketch of the future of software in general
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