Putting the word social into our innovation thinking is going to be a really important thing to do in the coming year, if you haven’t already. It will dominate our actions increasingly.
The challenges of ‘social’ is everywhere; within organizations, in all sorts of collective movements, in politics, across government, society, markets, academic institutions and effecting our personal lives in a host of ways.
Society has to face up to some really tough challenges and only innovation can solve these with human beings inventiveness and ingenuity. Regretfully we have still an accelerating ‘creative destruction’ and we are often more Schumpeterian than ever. Something has got to give and it will be within the broad social domain where it will all come together, many social things are converging or feeding off each other. Let’s take a brief look at all this social orientation going on.
Social Engineering – we are seeing better motivation techniques to improve the work space, the communication tools and provide better access to knowledge. The increasing social role within the workspace is going to be essential for that sense of belonging and identification, when we are faced with diminishing workforces in the future
Social Belonging Needs – in Maslow’s hierarchy of needs social belonging is seen as important. We need to encourage more ‘touch downs’ and connections within our daily work, to provide an increased sense of belonging we need to encourage leaders to hold more impromptu meetings, encourage more spontaneous interactions and discussions to extract the knowledge within individuals, our organization and in more open ways externally to the enterprise. We are all ‘gaining our personal voice’ in so many different ways we need to provide a more social environment.
Social Unmet Needs – we need to look more to overcome the multiple challenges of 1) increasing physical needs and reducing resources, 2) tackle the constraints on future skills and capabilities, 3) provide different ways to offer care and advice, and 4) solve the growing psychic pressures many seem to be having to solve their personal issues. There are many intractable problems out there in society that we have to come to grips with and offer new more innovative solutions.
Social Economy – we are seeing the mechanisms of the social economy breaking down and the different institutions and organizations are going to be under even more severe pressure with cost cuts. Often the boundaries there were clear in the past are becoming blurred and we have to tackle these with more social innovations. There is an increasing need to redraw a growing complex set of relationships and establish the different, distinct approaches required by innovation to understand, leverage and extract more from these groups involved for more social needs and aspirations of individuals within communities.
Social transformations are happening all around us. The very structures and institutions are under increasing strain and in some cases simply collapsing. There are new paradigms that we need to understand and translate, for instance the massive shift taking place from ‘push-through’ to ‘pull-through’ and the requirement of the individual not just serving the mass. There is intense ‘tensions’ for wider change and many organizations are failing to keep up or not being bold or radical enough to embrace and innovate in these changing times
Social innovation is growing in its discipline, its identity and understanding its tasks. Social innovation has to tackle the problems of increasing epidemics, flooding, pollution, healthcare costs, waste, inadequate welfare programs and a widening inequality within society. We have to construct solutions around 1) structures and mechanisms to develop and diffuse quickly and effectively, 2) establish the process of social innovation to extend it beyond business or its philanthropy roots to extend it and spread it and in so doing bypass many restrictions and current barriers left in place from a rapidly older order of society and 3) productive systems to learn who can do what, when, where, how and with whom and scale it accordingly.
Social Entrepreneurship – presently there are prescriptive theories on this as it is only emerging as a discipline in its own right in recent years and research tends to lag. What goes on today is social entrepreneurs blend methods from business and philanthropy to deliver what is needed in their challenge. This needs more understanding to allow for greater ‘replication’. The need of the social entrepreneur is to create social value but we need to define this a little more in the coming period.
Social value chains really do need to have an increased focus to understand in design, scale, the critical value-adding points, the ability or inability to scale understanding and in the service criteria. Some years ago the value chain become a focus of business with the result seeing a dramatic productivity improvement in results and we need the same amount of dedicated focus on the social value chain and what are good and improved outcomes along it from these efforts.
Social Enterprises – The need to organize and deliver in complex situations of crisis requires very different thinking and adaption than in the norm. Understanding how one social enterprise is successful and more importantly evaluating if its processes, structures and organization can be scalable is a real skill. Too often good social endeavors successful in one place cannot be duplicated so easily in another. We need to understand the why more. What are the conditions need that we can learn from, replicate and be extracted and what can’t be duplicated or scaled as recognized and left where they are. Understanding what and how to manage social innovate differently for different situations will make a real difference so the learning ‘adapts’ more to the often unique conditions found and in the process we can reduce sometimes some expensive mistakes from just blindly copying and ignoring these variables. As social enterprises continue to learn, innovation will be more prevalent.
Social responsibility within our organizations. Taking our social responsibility seriously has become increasingly important in recent years to. We need to be more transparent, more willing to engage society and the different interested groups. Increased emphasis is being placed on higher standards of practice, environmental sustainability, growing compliance with national laws and relevant conventions and sustainability for the better of society. There is certainly a greater sense of sharing the value more equally with societies by many larger organizations and addressing the ‘possible’ higher costs of complying with this is leading to many, often, imaginative innovative approaches. Much more has to be done but social responsibility is on most agenda’s of business, government and institutions and part of the internal innovation process more and more within organizations.
Social Media – this has been one of the hottest subject in recent years. How different social platforms are connecting people to the information they want to see and use. We all need clear social media strategies, organizations, governments, communities and individuals. Social media can become the real ‘glue’ for bringing together innovation as it ‘sticks the incompletes together’ into new forms and things. Blogging, twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook and the host of other social tools bring us ‘content’ as never before. We need a plan to market this content and understand its value. This social aspect offers some exciting times ahead.
Social networking is something we are all being encouraged to do, to get involved in. Third party social networks are opening up to knowledge that was left ‘alone’ in the past. Engaging in social networks is offering us so many multiple choices of different ways to operate and respond. Social networking can increase awareness, improve traffic to and from your site, prompt trails, stimulate new service offerings, engage broader audiences than in the past, enable you to design, test, drive your business, can prompt repeats, referrals and improve retention. Social networks now drive innovation and provide a powerful notification tool of the work you are doing.
Social is critical to build into our everyday thinking. It can amplify everything, it can offer dynamic experiences, it can deliver faster than ever and we need to increasingly interact all the time. We are really getting very social in different, more interesting and innovative ways.
Our new social consciousness can embed and diffuse innovation, it can fuel a more cumulative dynamic effect and empower larger groups with more confidence to master innovation understanding.
One final point – authenticity will rule in our social environment otherwise you will be quickly outcast from your social group.
Paul Hobcraft runs Agility Innovation, an advisory business that stimulates sound innovation practice, researches topics that relate to innovation for the future, as well as aligning innovation to organizations core capabilities.