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Is the social business world fulfilling its goals?


The illusory superiority bias is one of the more common psychological biases to emerge in our working lives.  For those that aren’t familiar with it, it suggests that we tend to think we’re an awful lot better at things than we actually are.  In a professional context, research has shown it to be particularly pronounced in senior management circles, where a lack of candid feedback extenuates the illusion that things are actually pretty good.

I wonder at times if the social business world is not suffering from this itself, in the sense that it often makes very grand and worthwhile noises about how it is underpinning a revolution in how work is done, with this transformation making work a more rewarding and engaging place for all employees, and a more innovative and profitable one for organizations.

Is it though?  I mean really?  In the earlier days of social business the concept was much less established than it is now, so many companies and individuals had to sell the notion of social business as a concept.  That’s great, but a good few of those early advocates gradually began to drift away from social business as a risky and innovative change in workplace behaviours, towards the much safer (and presumably more fertile) ground of social business as a social marketing adjunct.

Those that survived, and indeed those that have since joined the movement, have still been pushing the cultural change aspects of social business.  They’re still peddling the line that this is about creating a workplace fit for the 21st century, yet the reality appears to be that most are just trying to sell the installation of enterprise social software, and to justify that usage with the same sort of metrics that used to be applied to social media usage in general (likes, comments, shares etc.).

Have our workplaces really changed?  It’s hard to see a great deal of tangible evidence for it, and I wonder if there is almost an omerta here whereby no one is willing to question whether the things we’d love to see happening really are.  The illusory superiority bias persists largely because of a lack of feedback, or a lack of accurate feedback to be precise.  I wonder if the social business industry either has the feedback, or has it and doesn’t really want to listen to it.

Far be it for me to be critical of professionals working in the field who have to do what they can to pay the bills, but this movement is almost built upon the potential for a cultural realignment in how organizations operate.  It isn’t built on pushing out messages on Facebook or installing an enterprise social network.  Has the message become lost?

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