In July the McKinsey Global Institute released a report entitled, “The Social Economy: Unlocking Value and Productivity through Social Technologies.”  This is a massive report of nearly 200 pages, packed full of an amazing variety of data, analyses, and insights.  It is freely downloadable as a PDF.  I highly recommend it.  I will be picking nuggets out of it for a very long time.

The report shared four very interesting numbers about the current status of social technology use:

1—The number of social networking users globally is larger than 1.5 billion.

2—The proportion of total online users who interact with social networks regularly is 80%.

3—The proportion of companies using social technologies that report some business benefit from them is 90%.

4—The time spent each week by knowledge workers writing emails, searching for information, and collaborating internally is 28 hours.

Although companies are usually pretty good as incorporating social media into their customer-experience strategies, they often drop the ball when it comes to their own employees.  Tragically, they are forfeiting enhanced productivity and effectiveness to the tune of $900 billion to $1.3 trillion dollars annually.  The report describes the situation:

“While 72 percent of companies use social technologies in some way, very few are anywhere near to achieving the full potential benefit.  In fact, the most powerful applications of social technologies in the global economy are largely untapped.  Companies will go on developing ways to reach consumers through social technologies and gathering insights for product development, marketing, and customer service.  Yet . . . twice as much potential value lies in using social tools to enhance communications, knowledge sharing, and collaboration within and across enterprises. . . . By fully implementing social technologies, companies have an opportunity to raise the productivity of interaction workers—high-skill knowledge workers, including managers and professionals—by 20 to 25 percent.”

Unfortunately, these findings agree with an observation I have made for many years.  Corporate America is so often so slow to adopt the best technologies for its employees.  In so doing, employees are saddled with technological barriers to their productivity, efficiency, and effectiveness.

Some daunting reasons lie behind this challenge:

1—The larger the company, the slower it moves.

2—The larger the company, the more expensive it is to change technology.

3—The larger the company, the larger the inertia.

4—The larger the company, the larger the entropy.

As just one example of this, repeatedly, I see large companies running Windows XP, or even older operating systems.  Simultaneously, I see sole proprietorships or small companies already up and running Windows 7.  The bottom line here is when you run your own small business or when you are a lone operator, you simply don’t put up with technological barriers.  You cannot afford to do so.  Technological barriers cannot stand between you and your business’s success—you won’t let them.

Yes, I understand there are massive costs involved in switching out technologies.  Yes, I understand the disruption factors.  Yes, I understand major corporations must guard against the risk of technological disasters by adopting a new system too soon.  I get all that.

Nevertheless, for corporate America to be as successful as it can be, it must take a new approach.  Technology, the Internet, the mindset of consumers, and social media are all changing so much faster than in the past.  Corporate America must change with it.

Corporate America must increase its nimbleness and its responsiveness because in the big picture, the cost of not changing will far outweigh the cost of changing.  And especially these days, refusing to change means death.


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About James Meadows

Currently I serve as a training team manager for Tyco Integrated Security at a customer-care center in Kansas City. Additionally, I am a business consultant, a freelance corporate writer, an Assembly of God ordained minister, a Civil Air Patrol chaplain, and a blogger. I believe we are living in the most fascinating times of human history. To maximize the opportunities these times present, I have a passionate interest in leadership development and organizational success, both of which I view as inextricably linked.

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