How can an Enterprise Social Network help Build a Corporate Strategy?

As a believer in the insight of the employee when it comes to corporate strategy, product strategy, and even competitive strategy, an ESN can be leveraged into gathering the insight of your employees.

Employees hold a wealth of ideas, information, and insight to help an organization grow in this very competitive market.  In academic circles, this is called an ‘emergent strategy.’  This is when the strategy is derived organically from the bottom of the organization versus from the top of the organization.  Strategy needs to be guided by the top of the organization and harness from the employees the best ideas and innovations.  Leadership sets the vision, but the strategy is derived organically from the wisdom of employees.

Now how do social networking technologies help facilitate this process? Crowdsourcing, ESNs, and even MOOCs can help leaders leverage the insight of the employees when building organizational strategies.  

  • Crowdsourcing:  Crowdsourcing from an organizational perspective is the process of obtaining ideas from soliciting content online from a large group of employees.  Once the vision is set, crowdsourcing could be used to motivate the employees to come up with strategies and tactics. Whether its new products or services, employees can look at the vision from different  perspectives and may provide additional insight.  Crowdsourcing is also a method to help evaluate ideas by leveraging the ability to rate or vote on specific ideas. By making employees part of the strategy process,it improves morale, enhances engagement and may increase the number of new innovations.  All by leveraging the wisdom of the employee.
  • Enterprise Social Networks and Innovations: An ESN can be a wealth of information that could be leveraged when building an organizational strategy.  When an organization deploys a social network to improve collaboration, communication, and knowledge sharing, extensive knowledge now becomes available to everyone.  Not only could there be new ideas that start to be formed on the ESN, when the right nudge is given from management looking for ideas, many employees will happily chime in and offer their insights.  Through an  ESN ideas are open and visible to the entire organization. When an idea is posted, this may trigger another idea or a clarification to the first idea.  Ideas can start to snowball with the collective input of many of the employees.
  • MOOCs:  Massive online open courses can be used within an organization to gather knowledge and insight.  A MOOC can be utilized by the executive team presenting vision, external experts presenting market insights, or for sharing knowledge.  A MOOC can be a tool to share information across a large number of employees, across locations, and time zones.  As part of the MOOC, employees can start to collaborate, share information, and provide strategy insight to management based on the knowledge presented.

Handing over strategy to employees may not be a reality of your organization.  However, are there small steps that can be taken using social networking technologies to help gather ideas as input from employees?  For example, using an ESN to gather feedback on product strategy, crowdsourcing to come up with an innovation, or a MOOC to communicate general marketplace information to help guide the execution of the strategy.

Some things to consider when using these tools to help build corporate strategy.

  • Are employees comfortable giving the executive team feedback in such a public forum?
  • Can an ESN or crowdsourcing negatively impact innovation?
  • Should these tools be the only way to gather the input of employees?
  • How do you prevent power from impacting the ability to gather this information?
  • Even when strategy is centralized to the C-Suite, how could ESNs help provide valuable input into strategy?