I just returned from presenting for an extraordinary gathering of people at the Global Summit on Social Business Design presented by the Dachis Group in Berlin, Germany. Their new book is a must for any company that wants to survive the next decade of change. We used the art of jazz improvisation to help people understand the seismic transformation taking place with the ubiquitous emergence of social business design.
Social media is fundamentally changing the way businesses relate to themselves and their markets. One of the most immediate challenges to integrating social media is managing the inherent uncertainty of open engagement.
Life is an elegant improvisation. But how quickly we rush to impose our designs of control on uncertainty. The essence of any social community lies in its capacity to learn from itself. And learning requires a context of open engagement. The art of jazz offers insight into this fundamental shift in thinking.
Jazz is a collaborative process that generates creativity and engagement and that makes it fundamentally different from processes that produce fixed outcomes. The symphony produces a fixed outcome by rendering a beautiful interpretation of an idea that is fixed in time. The jazz ensemble produces new ideas based on the logic of an underlying strategy every time it performs.
In the symphony (and many organizational hierarchies,) leadership is top down and roles are tightly siloed. In the Jazz ensemble leadership is shared and roles are cross-functional in nature. By sharing the responsibility of leading and support, jazz musicians build the skills to learn rapidly from one another in constantly changing contexts.
Cross functionality and the removal of silos are critical in contexts where people have to self organize into small, agile, autonomous groups.
Social media provides serious tools for organized improvisation. But technology is only a tool. This was very eloquently explained by Cordelia Krooss, the Senior Enterprise Community Manager at BASF SE, Germany. I encourage you to read her blog. Managing social communities means constant learning from the information flows produced through internal and external communications.
As with jazz, the flattened hierarchy of social business design requires agility based in very high levels of personal responsibility.
Jazz calls for a fundamental shift in the social nature of collaboration. Connection, transparency, trust and listening are critical. So too in the connected communities based in social business media.
Social media is escalating the pace of change to the level of real time improvisation. The global benefits are real and profound but it means the capacity to manage change in new ways that perceive connection as organic and ubiquitous.