Social technologies have really started to impact how organisations operate, although research still shows that success is very low – according to Gartner research last year, 80 percent of social business efforts will not achieve intended benefits through 2015.

One book which may provide some insight into why this failure exists, and how to ensure your social business is a success, is The 8 Step Guide to Building a Social Workplace, Published by the Ark Group and written by Adi Gaskell.

Shilbrook Associates, our consultancy partners, have reviewed this book, which draws upon past research and analysis, promises to:

  • Provide an overview of the major trends in social business
  • Explore some of the lessons that can be learned from early attempts
  • Provide 8 levers to create a social workplace.

 Here’s the review.

Adi Gaskell’s Guide to Building a Social Workplace starts out with an obligatory nod to the massive proliferation of social media – but he immediately and very wisely makes clear that being a ’social business’ means a lot more than having a lot of followers on Twitter and running some cool campaigns on Google+ and Snapchat.

But it’s not easy to pin down exactly what that more is – there seems to be as many definitions of ‘social business’ as there are bloggers writing about it. To Adi, a social business is not so much characterised by its activity in social media or even by its digital engagement with its customers, so much as by its commitment to one or more of three areas: collaboration and innovation; crowd-sourcing and crowd-funding; or peer-to-peer exchange.

None of these were exactly unknown in the days before the digital revolution; but all have of course been hugely enabled by the availability of social platforms, both inside the business and outside.  But interestingly, he doesn’t go down the route of describing how such platforms can be used. Instead he looks in some depth at why this is a route that any executive ought to consider – how they can create new business opportunities, news sales and new efficiency gains.

He acknowledges that it’s not easy to be a social business as defined in these terms, and gives good reasons why many have been underwhelmed with results in practice.  But he counters this pessimism with some fascinating case studies to show how many household name brands have gone down this route, and are reaping the rewards.

To him, it’s not just a question of being a social business but creating a social workplace, so he adds sections on office design, including unusual discussions of issues such as lighting and desk design, alongside more familiar topics such as innovation areas and 360 appraisals. There is no question that this is important, as he makes clear that the business needs an appropriate culture to be ‘social’ – if the culture is one of cut-throat competition, then collaboration will be impossible. And the culture of any workplace is embedded in decisions made from the top, including decisions about office layout and employment contracts.

So, who can take the initiative to create a social workplace? Adi makes clear – again, in sharp contrast to the mass of bloggers preaching on this topic – that this is not something that can be introduced disruptively by a few self-proclaimed digital revolutionaries. It has to be based on strategic choices made in the boardroom, not because it’s cool to be social, but because it makes good business sense.

To the end, his book is an excellent contribution to the argument. If he can persuade a single CEO to see why the social workplace could benefit the bottom line, then it will have justified the work of creating it.

The 121 page book, ‘the 8 step Guide to building a social workplace’ is available to purchase here.