“We’re biological creatures at one level, and social creatures at another level, a higher level. People have an innate affinity for the layer that’s higher up in the stack if you like because that’s where we live, that’s where identity and relationships and empathy breathe. We’re biological creatures, for sure, but we live, think and behave social. We feel it. We’re social creatures and we’re striving for social business.
“So, just as it is for humans, we’ve begun to think of business as biological at one level and social at another. And I understand precisely what you mean – if I heard the expression ‘biological business’ I’d screw my face up too. Sounds more like a pharmaceutical outfit than anything to do with creating great products that celebrate great food and great cooking, or any other type of business come to that. So to answer your question, that’s why we don’t use the term.”
I could see the course of my argument taking shape, but I needed reinforcements. Then I remembered John’s missive quoting Bill Gates. I started a search for it and then continued to make our case.
“This is the really important bit. No business can really get to be social in a meaningful and valuable way simply by indulging in social media or by slapping apps onto social devices or by subscribing to a social enterprise network. The social human is literally powered by the biological human. The true social business is powered by similar capabilities, capabilities that are clearly lacking in the typical organization today, no matter how much they recite a social mantra.
“We’re mimicking nature by redesigning our business around influence flows, a capability that will drive responsiveness, productivity and profitability. You’d say we’re making Attenzi more intelligent, fitter and healthier, and these are biological words that have been invoked metaphorically in business terms for decades. Why? Because they make sense.”
My search had been fruitful.
“But don’t take my word for it. Ask Bill Gates.”
William lowered his coffee and visibly offered me his full attention.
“This is what he had to say back in 1999. ‘How you gather, manage, and use information will determine whether you win or lose. … The winners will be the ones who develop a world-class digital nervous system’”, I stressed the metaphor, “‘so that information can easily flow through their companies for maximum and constant learning.’
“And he goes on: ‘A digital nervous system comprises the digital processes that closely link every aspect of a company’s thoughts and actions. … To think, act, react, and adapt.’”
William was nodding now. I went with the momentum.
“And here we are now on the cusp of 2013 and things have moved on, as you’d expect. Back then Gates referred to email as a critical component of the digital nervous system. We don’t lend it the same emphasis because we have more choices these days. He referred to the digital nervous system of the company whereas our nervous system extends out into the world. He advised building an ideal picture of the information you need from technology. We also want technology to help us build that picture, indeed to help us identify new insights, new opportunities and new threats with unprecedented speed and perspicacity, unprompted.”
Now I felt prepared to parry.