How to thrive in a digitized and collaborative culture: a conversation with Isabel De Clercq November 28, 2017

Technology 6194 Isabel De Clercq

Social technologies have a bad rap, there’s no way around it. To the rescue: Isabel De Clercq, Fire Starter and Trend Catcher at Wolters Kluwer Belgium. Her book ‘Social Technologies in Business’ is a practical guidebook and a little bit of a love story about the wonderful technology that is social media. In a riveting one-on-one, she told us exactly how to use social media to thrive in today’s digitized and collaborative world.

Great potential for self-leadership and driving business

“It’s interesting to see how major corporations are still downplaying the power of social technologies”, starts De Clercq. “They think of it as a lighthearted gimmick. It’s a shame, because social media, when used correctly, is a very powerful business tool. As people start to share their knowledge and expertise online, they become much more self aware of their learning and added value - leading to self-leadership.” 

And self-leadership is not the only way people benefit from social technologies.  As businesses have changed fundamentally, social technologies have become a strong business driver. “First of all, it encourages customer centricity”, De Clercq explains. “While we used to push information to consumers, we now have to attract them. We have to draw them in and entice them with content that is useful to them. We have to put them at the center of our universe. Ideally, we will get to do so on channels that we own and/or to an audience that we’ve earned through continuous interaction. Therein lies the potential and the strength of using social media as a business channel. Secondly, social technologies and networks help knowledge and ideas flow fast within organizations. It tears down the suffocating walls between teams, business units and hierarchical layers. Needless to say, this results in increased speed, transparency, innovation and efficiency - leading to higher employee satisfaction and agility.” 

How social technologies enable digitization: it’s a cultural thing

The first step towards making the transition is, according to the author, acknowledging the crucial role social technologies play. “Tools like Yammer, Slack and Workplace by Facebook can catalyze organizational transformation”, she believes. “They give people - like your employees and above all your customers, a voice. And thus I’m convinced technology is capable of changing an organization’s culture. Culture is in the heart of everything we do. More precisely, it is the result of the way we do things. This means social technologies is about doing our work in a new way. And a new way of working is what technologies enable through virtual workplaces, allowing for more transparency and knowledge and ideas to flow like water across all “departments’.”

Isabel adds that, like Peter Hinssen explains in his new book ‘The Day After Tomorrow: How to Survive in Times of Radical Innovation’, we need to foster an organizational culture of try, fail, repeat. Or better yet: iterate, fail and persist. “We need some kind of tolerance towards failure”, she says. “There’s no denying: Whether it be internal or external, in the end the digital age is all about technology and how people are going use it.”

The pitfalls

De Clercq sees two pitfalls in the process of digitization. To successfully implement social technologies as a powerful business tool, companies should take measures to ensure that these are avoided.

1. Information overload

She says: “We’ve been drowning in emails for years and it’s wrong to assume that social technologies is going to fix that problem. Companies should urge their employees to take ownership of their digital consumption. There’s no use in micro-managing or restricting the times during which employees are allowed to read emails or other data streams, but they should be aware that the data they consume could be a distraction from their core task. On the other hand, it could also be exactly the inspiration they need, so trust them to manage content wisely.”

2. Sensitive information

The privacy dilemma long precedes the current GDPR buzz, and De Clercq is no stranger to security concerns: “I get that question a lot, and it’s understandable. In a world where cut-throat competition has become the new normal, companies are hard-pressed to keep an edge and playing it close the vest is crucial. On top of that, they’re sitting on ever-growing mountains of data. This is personal data from which they could gain useful insights that could give them a leg up from the competition. And obviously, customers’ sensitive information should never be up for grabs.

Here, again, I would advise organizations to educate their employees rather than keep everything under lock and key and create a secretive and high-pressure environment. Don’t tell them they’re not allowed to share anything unless they’ve been specifically told to. Tell them it’s ok to share anything that isn’t stamped ‘highly classified’ and teach them what is appropriate to share (or not to share) and why.”

Want to discover more about how social technologies transform individuals and organizations? Find out more about Isabel’s book - in collaboration with several specialist co-authors - here