Archive for the ‘Engagement’ Category

Finally got around to writing up my thoughts on the engagement pyramid, posted on the Groundwire website. There’s a lot more nuance here, which I hope to write about later. At least it’s a start for now.

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Elections for sale

This ruling by the Supreme Court on campaign spending is outrageous. Long-term damage to our democracy and our country is inevitable. It  just adds more fuel to the arguments against treating corporations as legal persons.

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The Stink of Boredom

This last Wednesday and Thursday night I attended two back-to-back talks by Alex Steffen at Town Hall. The guy pulled out all the stops and rocked the house. He terrified me and inspired me – yes, he inspirified me.

I tapped notes furiously on my iPhone both nights. It’s hard to pick out one thing to focus on from all of what Alex said. But I will.

Apathy is the enemy of engagement. Alex made the case that one of the ways institutions retain power is by boring others into apathy. We’ve all seen examples of this – usually in triplicate.

While making his point, Alex made reference to the following from Richard White:

In a democracy boredom works for bureaucracies and corporations as smell works for a skunk. It keeps danger away. Power does not have to be exercised behind the scenes. It can be open. The audience is asleep. The modern world is forged amidst our inattention.

From Richard White’s The Organic Machine

I love this quote. You can almost see the little Pepé Le Pew clouds of boredom, wafting out of rows of agency and corporate windows.

Keeping danger away is a strong motivator for established institutions. We’ve come to accept the barriers of boredom that big, bureaucratic companies and government agencies erect to protect themselves. We accept it as normal. But it doesn’t have to be. We can do better and this was a running theme through much of Alex’s second night.

I think a lot about how organizations engage people in their work and something is definitely changing. Smart companies are spending lots of money on relationship marketing and customer relationship management solutions. They’re trying to figure out how to build stronger, more engaged relationships with their customers. Governments are trying to figure out what it might look like to build stronger connections with citizens through “Government 2.0” solutions.

Many of us get hung up thinking about engagement as a technology problem. Technology is an important enabler of engagement, to be sure, but the biggest challenge is actually much deeper. It’s coming to grips with the danger that we ourselves may be trying to keep away. I’m speaking here of the danger of losing control. For the social change organizations I work with, it’s the danger of giving constituents more power over the direction of their organizations; the danger of fully opening our organizations to the power of fully engaged volunteers.

I’m not talking here about online donations, online petition signing or online methods for contacting elected officials. There’s nothing wrong with those things, of course. But come on. There’s got to be more. We need to be thinking about more creative, more interesting ways of engaging our fellow citizens in formulating our shared future. We cannot afford to bore these people. They are the source of any power we have. The interesting contradiction here is that to fully tap that power we must first be willing to give it away.

Losing control is scary. There’s no getting around that. But until we’re willing to do it, we too are the stinkers.

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Paul Greenberg has an interesting post in which he puts a stake in the ground in defining Social CRM (sCRM). There’s a lot to take in from that post, but here’s his relatively compact definition:

“CRM is a philosophy & a business strategy, supported by a technology platform, business rules, workflow, processes & social characteristics, designed to engage the customer in a collaborative conversation in order to provide mutually beneficial value in a trusted & transparent business environment. It’s the company’s response to the customer’s ownership of the conversation.”

And here’s the super short, Twitter-friendly snippet:

“The company’s response to the customer’s control of the conversation.”

These are good working definitions but I want to hone in on something else from Paul’s post. It’s the notion of the “personal value chain.” Here are some points on this from his post:

  1. That means that we need to recognize that there is an extended enterprise value chain which consists of the company, its suppliers, vendors and agencies that the enterprise has to deal with. There is a separate “personal value chain” which is the total greater than the sum of its parts of what an individual customer needs to achieve whatever their personal agenda is.
  2. For the company to succeed, since they cannot control the personal value chain of the customer, nor should they want to, they can only provide what the customer needs to satisfy that part of the customer’s personal agenda that is associated with their enterprise. That means products, services, tools and experiences that allow the customer that satisfying interaction.
  3. The intersection of the extended enterprise value chain and the customer’s use of part of his personal value chain to satisfy that personal agenda creates the possibility for a collaborative value chain that engages the customer in the activities of the business sufficiently to provide each (the company and the customer) with what they need from the other to derive individual and mutually beneficial value.

Now, this is what I find most interesting about the whole idea of Social CRM. What we’re talking about here is exposing business processes. That is the essence of any good CRM consulting work. How do you expose the business processes for building relationships with customers? In traditional CRM consulting, the focus is on exposing those business process to employees. The goal is to expose those processes in ways that help employees add value to customers.

Social CRM is about exposing those business processes not just to employees, but also to the customers themselves. I’m not just talking about self service processes here though I would argue that is an important step on the way to sCRM. What marks the shift to sCRM, in my opinion, is when customers begin using the tools to extend the organization’s business processes in ways that interact with others.

That’s what I find interesting about Paul’s notion of the “personal value chain” and the way he’s talking about it intersecting with the organization’s value chain. CRM’s early adopters out-competed rivals by using the tool to better manage relationship management processes internally. Tomorrow’s sCRM early adopters will out perform their rivals by melding collaborative processes with their customers in ways that dissolve the edges of the org chart. Those organizations that excel in exposing business processes to their customers are the ones who will tap the energy and value of their customer base – and that is a power that dwarfs all others.

Everything we are talking about here boils down to generating value to customers. In traditional CRM that value came from providing better service through better understanding. In sCRM that value comes from providing better ways for customers to serve their personal networks in ways that take advantage of the organization’s core services. In a recent post, I outlined another, more specific way in which organizations share value with customers through the notion of “transitive novelty.” The value of sCRM shares an important similarity. For the key to success in both cases, lies in how effectively the organization is able to flow value into the hands of its customers in ways that enable that customer to extend that value in turn to their customers.

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Michael Silberman has a really interesting summary of how things came together recently for the 350 Global Day of Action. The whole piece is worth reading and if you haven’t looked at the amazing array of images gathered from around the world as part of this organizing effort, it really is worth spending some time on the 350.org website.  Prepare to be moved.

One thing I thought was particularly interesting in Michael’s piece is this paragraph:

Notice how May Boeve refers to herself as a coordinator — not an organizer — when I ask her about her work (video). Sounds minor, but the reality is that no dozen people could have directly organized more than 5,200 simultaneous events on every continent using traditional organizing methods. In most campaigns, community organizers cover relatively small territories, working closely with volunteers to train and empower them to take on the campaign’s work. In this campaign, the “organizers” were the volunteers, not the staff.

This notion that “the organizers were the volunteers, not the staff” is subtle but extremely important. Modern, large-scale organizing efforts operate on a scale that can no longer be effectively organized purely by staff.

This is about pushing the power of the organization beyond the edges of the org chart.  In this model, the role of the staff shifts to that of “coordinator” – the coordinators of other people who are doing the actual organizing.

Network coordination is the new name of the game.

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