Social business: a revaluation of all values?

In a recent post on Stowe Boyd’s site he says:

“These [social] principles are fundamentally different from most business operations, so I think social can’t just be gravy poured on top of the current meat and potatoes. And it’s really about innovating, which again argues for a fundamental rethinking of how work works”

Perhaps the values that underpin Social Business may have existed in a previous time, and that somehow the needs of the industrial revolution and the Taylorist 20th Century – what I would term our “Necessary Past” – inverted them.

It is a concept brought to life by Nietzsche in his work the Antichrist (1895). Setting aside the religious context – this blog has no interest in the matter – he argued that Christianity had inverted humanity and was “hostile to life” – he called for a “revaluation of all values”, a transformative reversion to the values of a pre-Socratic life-affirming age characterised by vitality and spirit.

If we set the predominant, Taylorist-imbued values against Social, the contrast is marked by clear opposites….

Closed loop – secrecy, IP, privacy Open source – sharing, “crowdeverything”
Success – the only badge, expressed in material terms or accolades Failure – experimentation just as important, the driver of creativity
Data – mechanised and objective certainty Uncertainty – qualitative, human, subjective
Profit and shareholder value, measured in cash Contribution, measured in multiple “currencies”
Growth – the upward curve Sustainability – latticed and embedded change
Efficiency – the creation of predictable pathways Inefficiency – the chance of the unexpected and unplanned as the new differentiators
The system – reliable and certain, whose outputs are expected, capable only of what it is designed for The human – vulnerable and chaotic, yet capable of the incredible and unexpected
Optimisation – time and energy spent on attaining perfection, elimination of defects Opportunity – acknowledge defects, maintain focus on what is possible
Order – “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” –respect for the predictable Disruption – “if it ain’t broke, break it” – the generation of creative energy
Kaizen – continuous improvement Sporadic change – inspired, momentary
Hierarchies – solidity and structure, clear command and control, simple, two-dimensional Networks – ever evolving, occasionally exploding or imploding, highly complex, three-dimensional
Instruction – line management, clear direction and flow through defined pathways Influence –understand and navigate changing networks and patterns  
Risk – pessimism, plan for all eventualities, divert energy to what may not happen Optimism – belief that risks can be overcome with creative thinking, deploy energy on what is believed possible
Plan – DMAIC – define, analyse, measure, improve and control – all based on a clear path determined at the outset Multiple journeys – small steps, re-evaluate, re-calibrate, take on new information, iterate, see where the path leads
Script – a pro-forma for every situation Ad lib – every situation anew
Scheduled socialisation, at formal break times or after work hours Continual, multi-layered conversation over several media
Status – measured objectively through external material symbols Self-improvement – measured subjectively, through self-awareness and EQ
Process value – business organised around the ways it provides value End value – business organised around the value it provides

I once suggested that social business had its roots in the Stone Age – which at the time was slightly tongue-in-cheek – yet seems to have become less so the more time passes.

Did we once hold Social values to be true, but lost them in the drive to industrialise and technologise? Is Social Business, as many assert, a “new paradigm” – or are we in fact simply re-valuing what we presently hold to be true? In which case, is this a revolution – as some have claimed – or a revaluation?

It probably needs a Social mindset to begin to answer.

3 thoughts on “Social business: a revaluation of all values?

  1. Like. And supports the need for a ‘glorious failure’ award to acknowledge the pioneers full of arrows.

  2. Hi Neil,

    Agreed – it’s a re-evaluation of values without question and in the main, new technologies are enabling this.

    A new paradigm, perhaps, a move back to certain values and practices that were common prior to the industrial revolution, absolutely.

    That said, the reaction and journey different firms take in light of these opportunities and shifts is going to be interesting. Such changes are going to struggle to sustain themselves if they are introduced and implemented via classic top down, change orientated approaches in isolation, regardless of their cultural sensitivities.

    When did the turkey’s last vote for Christmas?

  3. Reading this I finally felt “normal”, I love the new paradigm! Hard work makes us lucky and hard work involves experimentation and failure. I measure myself by the ratio of meetings booked to rejections and whether than ratio is decreasing over time. Failure is inherent in improving and getting closer to the customer’s wants and needs, and that’s how I measure success by whether I exceeded customer expectations.

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