By David Cox
In their book, The Power of Pull[i], the authors claim that we are moving from a world of push to one of pull; from a world of forecast driven resourcing assuming a predictable future to a world of search, engagement, collaboration and productivity growth in a world of uncertainty. The book builds on a previous work – The Big Shift[ii] – in which the authors’ research showed that U.S. corporations were 75 percent less profitable than they were in the mid-sixties.
At a time when we are anxious about economic growth, this insight is valuable. It suggests that the way we have been managing businesses for the last several years may have been wrong – that the forecasting model of push has become obsolete.
In financial markets, the concept of push probably reached its peak with the credit crisis – the huge proliferation of credit based instruments to investors and borrowers – clearly ending badly. Financial institutions are now reflecting on what to do next – how to re-engineer business and operating models to recover past levels of profitability.
The concept of pull offers some intriguing possibilities. By gaining access to new knowledge and expertise, engaging that expertise in new challenges and opportunities, and making these resources as productive as possible, any firm or individual can become more successful. It is in this context that we should view the revolution in social computing. The age of rugged individualism is over. Collaboration is the mantra of the new marketplace within the enterprise and beyond.
Social computing has many dimensions – wikis, blogs, email, instant messaging and collaborative filtering. But one of its biggest and fastest growing elements is social networking. The rapid growth of Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and countless other sites is testament to this. We can make friends, find jobs, and attract resources through the wonders of social networking sites. That’s a huge endorsement for the power of pull.
As many of these sites realize, they represent a new marketplace. The data and relationships they possess provide huge value to many industries. Developing and monetizing this new marketplace remains a work in progress, but Facebook’s launch of their own currency suggests what the future might look like. In contrast, the financial services industry is taking a more cautious approach. This is understandable given the privacy issues involved, but there are huge opportunities as well for reaching customers, improving service and developing new lines of business. While financial institutions should be sensitive to the risks involved, they should not let caution obscure the many opportunities that social networking and computing can provide.