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Social Business - use cases and best practice are pants!

At the IBM Collaboration Diner at the Social Business Expo we had a long conversation with my old friend Luis Suarez about use cases and best practice - he doesn't believe in them!  Luis was there to do Wednesday's keynote address on the topic he is famous for - Thinking Outside the Inbox - There is no We in email.  I was there as one of the invited thought leaders contributing to the cafe style debates IBM and Collaobration Matters had organised inside a 1940s American Diner styled after Edward Hopper's painting Nighthawks.  One of my customers, Janet Parkinson of The Smart Work Company, was there joining in the discussion with Luis, triggered by our belief that there aren't enough good case studies of businesses using social tools inside their organisations to show how Social Business can work.  I commented that part of the reason for that is the difficulty of getting enterprises to share something that can be a competitive advantage, but Luis immediately declared that use cases are useless!

His view is that every business is different, every business is unique.  Having a use case for some other firm doesn't really help much.  He wants to go in to each company and find out about their specific ways of working.  What is it that adds value?  What do they really do?  Then he'll ask about their issues and  pain points, and see where social tools could be deployed to address those specific problems.  Use cases deal with somebody elses problems, not theirs.  He has a point, and I agree whole heartedly with starting with a deep dive in to what the business is all about, understanding their real processes.  Luis added:
"Use cases and best practices seem to accelerate that process without doing much work along the way, and, eventually, in the long term, they are a huge time waster, because the business may eventually fail if the homework that needed to be done didn't happen and if the core needs of the business were not addressed we go back to square one, with all of that time, energy and effort gone by and still stuck on step #1. That's the issue with use cases and best practices that I have, that they just don't allow you to move on further along with your own ideas, mindset, experimentation, play and research whether they could work out for you or not."
I had guessed he would have the same kind of views about best practices.  On questioning, he doesn't see the value in a generic, ones size fits all approach - I get that, but we began to disagree over the usefulness of a toolkit or a methodology of approach that will help improve the chances of success of getting the tools adopted inside the enterprise.   We came down to specifics on blogging.  I was wondering whether he believed, like me, that every business needs a blog and you need to look at how you make that blog work successfully for you.  He thinks bogging is vital to get yor message across, either internally, like with IBM's new CEO Ginni Rommetty, or externally to connect with your customers.  However, blogging isn't for everybody, so you need to find the right person to do it.  Luis went on:
"Blogging is about sharing a passion, your ideas, your interests, your opinions, your thoughts on particular things that are happening around you and your passion, and no matter what methodology you may be using if you lack that personal, passionate view on blogging, you are just basically publishing on a specific platform 'without a heart'."
I have a softer view on some of this than Luis.  A methodology, and a toolkit of different approaches and techniques to help behavioural change can definitely improve your chances of success.  Case studies have a value in starting the conversation with the organisation that needs help, but I completely agree that the conversation needs to be around the unique things that the business is all about.  However, Luis is making an important point that, used unwisely, use cases and best practices are pants!