Businesses have lost track of value creation

lostDoes better information sharing help us to achieve significant improvements in value creation ? A least enough to balance the time collaboration and sharing takes ? Do thousands of fans in rapture who “like” your page on Facebook help you to sell more ? At first sight yes. Logically yes. In theory yes. But are we sure it actually happens.

By sure I mean : demonstrate a causal effect between an action, a behavior and the expected result, all other things being equal. Even if notable exceptions exist we need to admit that and most of cases the answer is no. That’s why “hope and pray” is still so popular in the social business field.

Anecdotes are not a value model

There are, of course, many cases that prove the contrary. But it try-and-fail is the only way to move forward, a sum of anecdotes does not found a value creation model. Because it’s nothing but anecdotes. One will always be able to find 20 people that won at the lottery the day they were wearing a green shirt or red socks. But it will never mean that wearing such clothes will always make someone a millionaire. No one can claim that except to give oneself courage.

But why would we want it to work any time while once from time to time is better than not at all. For scale matters of course. Let’s consider an employee achieving something great because another shared his feedback. Maybe the 10 000 euros made will balance the 3 euros the feedback costed. But if you multiply 3 euros by 50K employees many times a day and only 10K euros are made each week I let you do the math. And the result does not look that good.

100.000 retweets for a marketing campaign ? That’s good. But if in the end only 100 people bought something from the company because of the RTs, we can discuss the value of the operation.

Nothing happens until someone takes action

“Nothing happens until someone sells something”. If no one is really sure whether this quote is from IBM’s Thomas Watson or Peter Drucker, one thing is : it’s still relevant. Social value creation uses new channels, takes many new forms we still struggle at understanding and tracking. But the goal is still the same. Improving reputation, increasing awareness, be liked is worthless if it does not make you sell more or, from an HR standpoint, attract better candidates. From an internal perspective, no use to share and exchange it it does not help to execute tasks and processes better. That’s as simple as that.

Today we still suppose, believe or hope that all these soft actions lead to jard benefits without being able to demonstrate or measure anything. Don’t get me wrong : I’m convinced it does but what bothers me is that we are unable to track the impact of soft things on hard ones, even only to quantify things. And if yoy can’t quantify, you can’t manage and improve. Even if benefits are real we’re losing the opportunity to improve the system and maybe make 10 or 20 times more of it. Who know ? We’ll never.

Noise on steroids or actionable messages ?

A part of the solution may be found in big data and its ability to highlight new value creation patterns. Big Data can link social and its measured impact, the value it generated. But that’s only a matter of correlation. Maybe a more causal approach will be need  to find the link between social and actions, in other words to go beyond influence, awareness and knowledge to see if they stay messages people read or lead to actual actions. Make sure that social interactions are not noise on steroids but actionable messages (ideally actioned ones).

Just keep in mind that value is not the result of sharing, awareness of knowledge. It’s the result of an action that is the consequence of awareness or knowledge.