Organisations need a nervous system

Last week I joined IBM and a group of communicators from some of New Zealand’s top companies to hear about IBM’s CEO study which identified some key issues facing leaders around the world.

Increasing complexity, the need to be closer to customers, and the need for greater agility are the three things keeping CEOs awake at night.

As the second guest speaker, I was tasked with speaking about social media as a way to get closer to customers, but in many ways social media can help with the other two needs as well.

We all agreed that social media was a great way to sense what was going on in the marketplace – the pain points, the great customer experiences, and the unsought new ideas that come from unsolicited customer feedback.

The question then is, what do we do with all this data?

It’s like businesses have started to develop a nervous system. If a company listens in to conversations online, they start to feel the pain. But do the nerves go all the way to the muscles, to where action can happen?

Social media may have first been seen as an IT issue. Now it’s beginning to be seen as a marketing/comms issue. But how many companies are involving their innovation departments (in fact, how many companies have innovation departments?)

This is not a new idea. Bill Gates coined the phrase digital nervous system in his 1995 book Business @ the speed of thought (when @ symbols were ultra-cool and futuristic). Stephan Haeckl describes a similar idea in the Sense-and-Respond organisation.

But these have been theoretical possibilities. In the next few years, perhaps we’ll start to see organisations that work organically, able to not only sense the message of the marketplace, but respond positively.

Can you think of any examples of companies doing the nervous system thing well?

(Photo: perpetualplum)

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