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July 8, 2014

Innovation Happens 24/7 with Social Business

By Karen J. Bannan

Last year I interviewed Col. Steve Sobotta, the then-CIO of the U.S. Army War College, an educational organization that grants degrees in strategic studies. Its students are military and civilians who hold or will hold positions that relate to national security objectives. Bottom line: The students rule the world — literally.

Recently, nearly everything the students and professors did was paper-based. Today, however, the organization has moved to an online collaboration platform so that people can discuss ideas, interact and work together. As soon as the change happened, people started interacting and innovating from wherever they were at all times of the day and night, according to the CIO. “Deep discussions have started,” he told me. “Instead of going a mile wide and an inch deep, [students could] go a mile deep and an inch wide.”

This type of interaction isn’t unusual for those organizations that implement social business and collaboration tools. For instance, McKinsey Global Institute’s July 2012 report, The Social Economy: Unlocking Value and Productivity Through Social Technologies, found that businesses that make it easy for employees to interact with each other as well as customers, partners, and prospects are more successful.

According to the report, companies that make social collaboration technologies available add to the productivity of “interaction workers—high-skill knowledge workers, including managers and professionals” by 20 to 25 percent. And yet a more recent McKinsey survey found that adoption of social collaboration tools is not as high as it should be with only, “four in ten respondents say at least half of their companies’ employees use social networking for work.” Overall, social adoption has actually plateaued, says McKinsey’s most recent survey results. “After seven years of research on the use and benefits of social tools, respondents to our latest survey have for the first time reported no growth in the share of organizations deploying such technologies.”

With the benefits of collaboration so apparent, it’s clear that those companies that have not adopted a social business strategy should consider the benefits – and what they lose by staying with the status quo.

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