Two Books I’m Reading

I’m finishing up two helpful books, one on social technologies called, Groundswell (authors are Li and Bernoff), and the second is How The Mighty Fall And Why Some Companies Never Give In, the latest book by Jim Collins. The latter is a really good book on lessons learned. At Northeast Delta Dental, we are pursuing a social networking strategy because dental benefits may be shifting from group (employer) based to retail, and we need to understand how social technologies can work for us. If you have any ideas, I look forward to your feedback.

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6 Responses to Two Books I’m Reading

  1. What specifically struck you about those two books? I haven’t read the Collins book, but I found Groundswell (http://www.forrester.com/Groundswell/book.html) a well-thought out discussion of the dynamics of current social media systems. The authors (Charlene Li and Josh Bernoff) ask some very pertinent questions that every organization should answer before venturing into the social media world. “What are your goals” and “why will anyone out there care,” to paraphrase a few of the more important.

    On the other hand, I think the authors are so close the social media whirlwind that they don’t seem able to grasp or communicate the bigger picture. How did social media evolve and where is it likely to go? Web stuff moves *fast*–by the time we’ve latched onto what’s there now it’s pretty much too late.

    While any organization with a trace of foresight needs to be involved in what’s going on now, the big question, IMHO, is how to identify and leverage the next round of world-changing technologies; a question that can only be answered with a lot of experience, knowledge, and thought.

    Rich

    • tomraffio says:

      Hi Rich,

      On the Collins book, it’s basically lessons learned; some companies adapt and thrive; others fall by the wayside due to lack of innovation, complacency or ego.

      Your assessment of Groundswell is right on; the authors do give you some nice tools and models before your organization plows ahead with a social technology. You are correct, the question you pose is left to the reader.

    • Hi Tom,

      I just finished the Jim Collins book, How the Mighty Fall and have a few thoughts. By analyzing a collection of failed organizations, Collins inferred that companies go through five stages of decline:

      Hubris,
      Undisciplined growth,
      Denial of risk,
      Grasping for salvation, and
      Irrelevance or death.

      His arguments make sense and persuasive. There’s a different and scarier path to decline that I think he missed, however: cultural conservatism. Most strong companies have healthy corporate cultures that fit them comfortably. Those comfortable cultures can easily become resistant to the fundamental changes that are occasionally required if the company is to stay relevant in a changing world.

      My question: how do you balance a strong corporate culture with ability to make fundamental changes? Are there characteristics of a culture that would enable it to more easily handle fundamental changes?

      Rich

      • tomraffio says:

        Hi Rich,

        I think a strong corporate culture, where there is ultimate trust between senior management, the board of directors, all employee colleagues, customers and regulators actually enables needed changes and diverisification efforts to occur without the usual human resistance to change. When there is total trust, employees believe senior management when we say we have to diversify because our current market is saturated, or that we need a new system (requiring a lot of extral work during parallel testing with the old system), or that we need to lower our administrative cost structure to be more compeitive. Total trust with customers allows marketing to test some of our ideas off actual customers, and total trust with regulators expedites the regulatory approval process.

        When the CEO goes to the board with a proposal which requires a new investment or a shift in business strategy, it’s a lot easier to get the board to approve such a shift if there is total trust between the board and the leadership team of the company.

        Hope this helps Rich. Thanks for staying in touch.

        Sincerely,

        Tom

  2. Betsy Lynch says:

    Hi Tom,

    I don’t know what to say except Hello! I will look for the newest book you read and read it myself between classes. I have the month of August.

    • tomraffio says:

      Hi Betsy,

      Going to school and professsional development are so important to success; glad you are taking classes.

      Another book to consider: “How to be a Great Communicator”, by Nido Qubein. Mr. Qubein is the President of High Point University in NC, and he is quite inspirational.

      Nice to hear from you.

      Sincerely,

      Tom

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