The Next Big Thing is not Social “XYZ”

Co-creation is what makes Social CRM and Social Business Design work

Over the past months I’ve been writing about Social CRM and Value Co-creation in an attempt to define both. As it appears, to me at least,  both are highly linked if not of the same kind: Co-creation is at the center of Social CRM or Social Business Design. One can not have Social CRM or Social Business Design or what have you, without applying the principle of (value) co-creation. Co-creation is not only at the center of all, it is the heart of it all. Co-creation is what makes it work (and not technology).

Social CRM nor Social Business Design is “the next big thing”

Come to think of it, it is not that mind-blowing. We understand for a while now that Customers, employees and partners can be great resources when it comes to listening to them and understanding what is happening with them and in between them and that this understanding is a good source for improvement. We did not need Social Media to understand the principle. Furthermore, most of us know and experience in our daily business lives, that in order to be successful in whatever you are doing in (business) live, one needs to collaborate. Also not a lesson told by Social Media. And good collaboration requires good communication and sharing of knowledge between stakeholders. Much like communications, value co-creation requires parties to work together to make it happen.

More recently, but still over a decade ago, we have discovered that stakeholders are not only good resources of knowledge, but that they are very willing and able to be part of the value-creation process as well. And it is human nature, or even the law of evolution, that we must adapt to changing circumstances. With an ever changing world around us we are in constant need of adaption, also called innovation. The fact that Customers are talking and networking is not new either, the fact that they do it on-line in a newly facilitated highly networked environment is just one of those changes that we need to adapt to.

Mind-blowing is, that it took us so long to “get it”

I thus come to the conclusion that there is nothing mind-blowing or shocking about Social CRM or Social Business Design and alike, nor to my Social CRM Strategic Framework Statement. The thing that is mind-blowing is that it took us so long to “get it” (and we’re long from everyone “getting it”), To conclude this part: Social CRM and/or Social Business Design is not The Next Big Thing. It has been common sense all along and we’re just late implementing it.

If Social XYZ is not the Next Big Thing (NBT), what is?

I have to excuse myself. I really do not know the answer, or best guess at this stage (yet). Before I can get to that I need to understand what the last (and one or two prior to last) NBT of the past was. I’m counting on you to help me with that: what do you think the last NBT was and what will be it next. Or do you not agree with my statement above? Please let me know too!

Thanx for sharing, looking forward to the debate.

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28 thoughts on “The Next Big Thing is not Social “XYZ”

  1. Pingback: Reading EXCLUSIVE: Social CRM Vendors Don’t Walk The Talk by Jeremiah Owyang, partner, Altimeter Group « Fredzimny's Blog

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  3. Wim,

    You’re right – it is more fundamental. I’ve often thought that if we analyze our behaviors enough, one can perceive an element of selfishness in everything (assuming one has evolved beyond the neanderthal stage). Thus, it easy to understand the myopic ability to see customers solely as a means to an end. I am constantly amazed by colleagues who say and do things that they would never allow someone else in another organization to say or do to them – ie; completely blind to the fact that their customers are human beings – identical to them. (Or maybe it’s just me and my inability to compartmentalize my work life from my home life).

    Sorry for the tangent, but I see SCRM / Social Business Design / ??? as the vehicle (albeit forced upon organizations because of the new world order) for humanizing the majority of interactions. If forced to listen and understand customers, even though there still exists that selfish motive on the part of organizations that customers might still be only a means to an end, listening is more of a passive (non-control freak) activity, and co-creation (well, might as well take down the fence and let people communal farm) – in there I see the hope.



  4. Hi Kathy,

    Thx for this addition. I cannot agree more. Slice it in pieces a company (and its people) can handle is a smart approach. This is basically what I proposed in my post on a Portfolio of Real Options..:

    ( )

    And talking about change.. I received this great 1st in a series of 2 posts by Gary Hamel on the increasing need for Companies to become “adaptable”. I think it is an awesome read that I highly recommend.

    ( )

    Thx for adding some more meat!



  5. Wim,

    I apologize for my heavy handed analogy on survival. I get caught up, often, in looking for the right words to express the need and urgency of SCRM.

    I agree with Kathy that the focus should be on strategy more than technology first. Working, as I do, on the practice side of B2C, I live this day-to-day. I cringe everytime the halos brands are given as an example – I think that there is, at least the 80/20 rule (though it’s probably closer to 90%) of organizations are not actually customer-centric in their actions (or culture), though the majortiy say there are. Invoking what the halos brands are doing/have brings jealousy – no real presecription for getting to that world that Mitch described – a kinder, gentler world where we care about our customers so much that we are willing to relinguish our grip on control and ask for help in delivering value to them. (Maybe women should run all the companies, because men don’t know how to ask for help).

    Sorry again for the rant – just giving you some idea of where I’m coming from.

    Love this discussion.


    • No need for apologies to me, I like your style as much as I like rants (and I really love them. Wish I was better at them).

      I don’t think the only “issue” is reluctance to let go of control or to ask for help. I believe the “issue” is much more fundamental: Business is seen as a place where there is no place for emotions, because they will stand in the way of tough decisions that need to be made. Decisions that one generally takes behind closed doors to avoid rumor, strikes, competition seeing it early etc..

      And Customers, even today, are viewed as a means to an end.. The end, for them, is still value extraction. And as we often see, with the end in mind people tend to forget that the means are human beings too… (we had this with employees too, but I guess most companies got that some time ago).

      Well.. that was my little rant. Thx for provoking it ;-)

      Welcome to our community!



  6. Great discussion going on and thanks, Mark, for stirring the pot.

    I think both Mitch and Bob are on target here. Yes, we are trying to return to simpler times when our vendors felt interest and concern for our lives. And yes, it is different because the cost of failing to engage customers can result in disasters like United Breaks Guitars.

    However, it’s also wrong to assume that suddenly the customer is in control now but not in the past. He always was because, if nothing else, he could vote with his feet.

    What’s different today then in the past is the plethora of choices a customer can turn to as alternatives. And the ability of an individual customer to make a huge online footprint that can positively or negatively impact a company (like United Breaks Guitars, for example).

    *That’s* why businesses are being forced to pay attention to the clamoring wake up call of customer demands.

    @DavidKriss made an astute observation today in a tweet – “For sales, technology is utility, the enabler. It’s the light switch, not the electricity.” Expand that to business in general and it’s equally true.

    That’s why the high focus on technology before focus on designing the social business is the wrong approach. The better one, the one that will lead to technological opportunity, is to first focus on solving business needs. Helping companies wade through what they need to do to become social businesses….on the terms best suited to their existing situations….and then letting the right technology solution sets derive from that. And as Mitch and others have often pointed out, and I agree, one size will not fit all.

    Additionally, I’m not sure a focus on the NBT isn’t part of the problem. Almost by definition, NBTs imply a disruption due to the need to adopt something new.

    The better answer, and one more palatable to business, would be to consider Social Business Design as an evolution. From that perspective, the question becomes how does a company need to evolve its objectives and strategies? And then what existing technology can it leverage as part of the evolution? What new technology can be introduced as a *step* change?

    Want to know at least one of the reasons why I think Helpstream is attracting customers? Because they’re leveraging the existing CRM technology a company might already have in place and enhancing its functionality. To take a page from David Beard, it’s a step change in customer strategy leading to a step change in technology.


    • Hi Kathy,

      Your comment is highly appreciated and maybe even worthy a post in itself ;-)

      One thought that I would appreciate your view on:

      I’m not sure NBT’s are (yes “are”) part of the problem.. I agree that NBT’s (almost) imply disruption (for markets & companies), but not always, or even mostly not, due to a need to adopt to something new.

      The Next Best Thing will be recognized by Customers once it has arrived. They will embrace and adopt in such a way, that “alternatives” seem almost non-existent. NBT’s are not the problem, they are the solution (maybe should name them the Next Best Solution ;-) or in your analogy: NBT’s are the electricity, all we need to find is the switch to get “the stream” to flow.

      I’m convinced that Social CRM (and Social Business Design) is the switch. Now we need to understand if it is a switch we need to flip up, flip down, turn left, turn right, push & turn or what options have you.

      Thx for joining in (again)!



      • Wim – You’ve certainly sparked a meaty discussion so go you!

        Please don’t misunderstand me, though, because I’m a huge proponent of social businesses and their supporting technologies like SCRM. Enough that my company, Intellicore Design, offers services in support of social media strategies and technologies.

        I agree with you, though, what is needed right now is to spark the electricity that leads businesses to embrace social design. Once they start to embrace that, then they’ll start to *demand* the technology tools to support their desired initiatives. Right now, we’re still in the zone where much of the social media technology is trying to do the ignition and that’s the servant trying to lead the master.

        Now that I’ve beaten that analogy to mush….

        What’s happening right now is a revolution where customers are demanding companies embrace socialized interactions with them. The problem is, though, companies are loath to change because, after all, they’re comprised of people and most people hate change. That and attitudes that the “business is getting along so why fix what’s already working or sort of working.”

        Next, a focus on the NBT is likely to be scary. Experience has shown us that the technological NBTs involve $$$$ outlays. And that doesn’t even begin to include the cost of changing people’s perspective or attitudes (so add in training costs and such).

        So a business first has to determine if a change to a social business makes sense and then consider how to make the change affordable. The answer is much more palatable when it can be an incremental change in support of a business initiative.

        Thus, make the business case for the benefits of social business, then define the strategies to become one, then consider the technology….and the more incremental and progressive you can make all that, the easier it will be for business leaders to embrace the evolution.


    • Hi Mark,

      As we quickly exchanged thoughts over at twitter I have to admit that I need to put in some more time to get to know Dachis, their purpose, thoughts, their approach and their solutions. I have not been able to make a lot from their presentations and the link you provide above. Maybe I should try and engage on their community (do they have one?)

      Besides the above: we are fully aligned on the community-centric approach. Engagement is key, and we’re not only talking Customer engagement here. Employees, partners and other stakeholders need to be actively engaged too. This is utmost important, since without an engaged community no co-creation.



      p.s. if you (or anyone else reading this) already understand completely what Dachis is about, don’t hesitate to let me know ;-)


  7. Hi Esteban,

    Why do we need the Next Best Thing?

    In my humble opinion Social CRM etc is the Best thing around for companies currently. I do not see a Next Best Thing for companies come around for another 10 years too. I think we agree on that. And..

    Customers could not care less what is the best thing around for companies. They need the Next Best Thing to meet their needs better then they are being met now.

    Companies should not pass on the opportunities of Co-creation & Social CRM. They should speed-up on drafting their Social CRM Strategy and (co-?)crafting experiences. They should, though, never stop looking for the Next Best Thing for their Customers (by means of Social XYZ of course).

    In essence my post is about advocating a Customer Centric approach and awareness to what could easily become an Inside-Out exercise all over again.


  8. Hi Wim

    There is a good deal of dialog in this post and the ensuing debate and I am really pleased to see co-creation entering the forray. Having studied some of the successful companies in SCRM (I am sticking to that term) I can see that the contribution made from their community has been key to their success. Ok so they may have already had a strong community/brand following before but without a community noteworthy co-creation is not possible.

    If we look at Nike (when will they do Nike+ for swimmers and cyclists too?) for example the running community there keeps promoting its brand and products (me included). If you look at Asda in the UK (owned by Walmart) their CEO Andy Bond is using communities to help decide what they should stock on their shelves and more importantly create a culture of trust.

    IMHO a “winning strategy” for SCRM has to include a strategy that hooks people in some way shape or form to be part of the community in order to get quality contributions for co-creation. Also it would seem that first mover advantage is key (as per other Social Media networks) and the first brand in a sector or segment to come up with the “bright idea” or product innovation is probably onto a big thing with respect to getting the support of a community and therefore a bunch of people who will add value to your business through crowd sourcing and co-creation.

    Let me know what you think…


    • Hi Mark,

      I could not agree with you more! Key for the success of any SCRM strategy is true engagement. I have referred to the Nike case in one of the comments on an earlier post before. A great read on this is also

      Click to access Ramaswamy_-_S_L_-_Co-creating_Value_through_Customers__Experiences_-_the_Nike_case_-_S_L_2008.pdf

      In my personal view Customer engagement is best enhanced by building a community around a so-called “Social Object” (like running is). People do not just get engaged with companies or other people (apart from friends and family) over anything. The likelihood that they engage will certainly increase if the topic of the community has a close relation to the “job they need or want to do”. This “job” can be of a functional, social or emotional kind. Running is a specifically good example because it has all three “jobs” in it:

      Functional job: stay fit / increase fitness
      Social job: benchmark / joint effort / teamwork
      Emotional job: enjoy / fun / accomplishment

      I am too convinced that communities that are built around a social object or Customer “job” will result in high quality engagement. The one a company needs to be able to co-create.

      Thx for your great contribution to this post.



  9. Wim

    I love the thought that this is not the NBT, but merely a survival mechanism, and Mitch’s reply that this is merely a way to use technology to return to a simpler way of life – where every one knows your name world.

    Why is this a survival mechanism? Paraphasing Paul Greenberg – The world has changed and your customer is in control. Scary, but true. Technology has evolved so much that the alternatives demands on our time and attention are astronomical compared to the good old days where life was simplier, but the number of hours in a day has no changed. Survival entails fighting for the time and attention of your customers. And this entails understanding what it will take to get their dopamine neurons charging – what is it that they value and see a positive reward from, such that they are willing to listen and engage with you. The scarier thought is that this is (undoubtedly?) an endless cycle – or, as my wife likes to say, a hell coil.

    From the standpoint of organizations, I can see Social CRM as a disrutpive innovation because it is causing organizations to re-think their culture of control. I preceived traditional CRM as a carrot and stick or Pavlov’s dog experiments in that I, as the company, am in control, and I will attempt to elicit a desired response.

    Can Social CRM or Social Business design be viewed as a survival mechanism – my customer no longer responds the way I want and I need to change and adapt – they have left the sandbox I built and to play with them, I need to find a way to let them let me play in their sandbox?



    • Hi Scott,

      Great that you have engaged here on my co-creation platform ;-)

      I like your analogy with a survival mechanism, although I think this is probably a too heavy terminology. I like to see Social CRM as a necessary means to improve the co-creation of value.

      I also agree with you that, from a standpoint of organizations Social CRM and/or Social Business Design is disruptive. Like I wrote in my reply comment to Esteban Kolsky, Customers could care less about what is disruptive for organizations. All they need is improved value-propositions that better meet their needs.

      Thx again for reading & engaging.



  10. Wim,

    I am afraid that now we are moving to the other end of the spectrum, and that is not that good either. True, no one knows what to call it, what to do with it, or what it is – but we cannot abandon it… yet.

    There is a massive social evolution underway and businesses are beginning to realize that. You are saying that they are going in the wrong direction, but that you don’t really know what direction they should be taking. That, in my most humble and probably wrong opinion, is the same as saying “Go to SCRM, young man!”. Either one yields the same result: confusion.

    I would be very happy to get behind something else — if I could see something else that would benefit organizations in the same sense that a well-developed extension of CRM (such as is SCRM) would. If I could see that organizations could adopt a social model to allow them to deal with their evolving customers by dressing ERP in SOA-wrappers and calling it Mary (the technical equivalent of putting a dress on a pig and calling it Mary – yes, it is late and I am tired) then I would get behind it and help business make it there.

    I am not discounting co-creation, systems thinking, design theory or however you want to get there. All that is fine. However, the social evolution will continue to grow and those people who are going to move away from it will be caught empty-handed when it gets here.

    We made that mistake before with both ERP and CRM when we swore off them because we could not figure out the best way to get there. And, as Paul Greenberg has been saying lately, CRM still grew to a be a $13BB business. Organizations would not throw that much money behind a failed technology-strategy or dead-movement (we did call them all that).

    I think you have a point in saying it maybe time to stop and smell they hype. I agree with that. It is time for organizations to figure out which way they want to go. However, abandoning the efforts and moving away is the wrong way to go.

    Open to be proven wrong, but have lots more to say on this :)


    • Hi Esteban,

      I don’t think you are wrong. I even believe that Social CRM or Social Business Design or whatever Social XYZ is extremely important to get to the Next Big Thing. I think it is a condition, not the Next Big Thing itself. I tried to capture this in the one sentence:

      “Social CRM and/or Social Business Design is not The Next Big Thing. It has been common sense all along and we’re just late implementing it.”

      For your reading convenience I will copy here my re-comment on Mitch’s comment, to further explain why Social XYZ, in my humble opinion, which can be wrong too, is not the NBT in itself, and how it definitely relates to it:

      “Social technology should focus on enabling the co-creation process between all stakeholders (and we know by now who that includes). Furthermore it should provide us with data, information, knowledge and insights to fuel innovations.

      The Next Big Thing is all about innovations that disrupt markets. Social CRM or Social Business Design will not disrupt markets in itself. That’s why I state it is not the Next Big Thing. But, if your company is aiming to create new and sustainable growth, you better implement a Social XYZ-strategy, because without it, there is a more than average risk that your market will be disrupted and it will not be your market anymore.”

      To conclude: noting I state in my post was intended to leave anyone with the thought that Social XYZ-strategies should be abandoned. To the contrary! I hope this reply clarifies that sufficiently.

      Happy to be proven wrong, right or both ;-)

      Thx for reading, sharing & “forcing” me to explain.



      • Why do we need a Next Big Thing?

        and when you are done with that one,

        Why is Social Business not the NBT (go beyond the fact that we don’t get it all the way to the fact that we are not yet doing – so how can you say it is not the NBT when we don’t even know it is)?

        I think that you are jumping the gun on something that has not yet shown its true colors and some people that follow may miss true value and improvement in the search for something else while ignoring today and the next 10 years (social business).

        Just a thought for you….


  11. You are quite correct – there is nothing mind blowing. It’s business as usual, for those who “get CRM”

    An investment in CRM software is only partially realised without a matching customer strategy.

    Harnessing Social Media is an essential part of a business’ customer strategy & key to keeping customers.


  12. Yet there are distinct differences.

    Remember, we always could write a letter with our quill pens, affix a postage stamp, and send mail. Yet email changed that experience quite a bit.

    If we fly high enough, everything looks the same. But we miss certain critical details.

    For example, the friction involved in sending and email versus getting out our quill pen and papyrus is radically different. Many more people participate much more often, even though from 100,000 feet we see the same old clouds, mountains, and lakes.

    So it is here too. We aren’t just trying to get back to what we always knew. We temporarily lived in a world where it wasn’t necessary to try to get back. Now we live in a world where getting back has become urgent.


    Because the friction has changed. One happy customer used to tell 1.8 others. One unhappy used to tell 10 others. Now one unhappy United passenger has told 5+ million others they broke his guitar.

    Be careful not to miss the critical details of how things really work thinking about the big picture. And likewise, be sure to enjoy the forest and not just the leafs and trees!




    • Hello Bob,

      Thanx for your insightful contribution that makes it very clear that the world has changed and that we need to adapt, much like the laws of evolution teach us.

      Like in evolution, the ones that adapt best to the new circumstances will survive and prosper. The ones that don’t will go extinct in the end. Nothing more to add.

      Thanx for reading & stopping by.



  13. Wim,

    I do understand what you are saying, and it makes sense. In reality, all we are trying to do is play catch-up, as Mark says. Businesses evolved from hyper-individualism to serving the masses, to serving the huddled masses….now we are again trying to serve – oh, sorry – work with, create, aid the individual. The mental picture that enters my mind is the bartender who says: “Want the usual?”

    The “Big Thing” that everyone is trying to achieve will not change, it is trying to get back to a point in time when life was a bit simpler. The society where the clerk at the hardware store knows your name, asked about the kids, wanted to make sure Johnny is feeling better, and that you fixed the leaky roof. As we all know, that does not scale – that is where we are all trying to get to, IMHO.

    SocialXYZ is we have all affectionately begun to call it is not new, it is actually really old. It is just now beginning to be possible – technologically. This is where we are all getting caught up, People Process…yeah, but technology has enabled our customers do all sorts of things, why is it so bad that we need to also engage (different use of the word) with technology.

    Good thread and good thoughts, thanks for sharing


    • Hi Mitch,

      Thx for stopping by and commenting. And indeed, nothing bad about engaging with technology. I believe it is even a must and it should have happened already.

      Social technology should focus on enabling the co-creation process between all stakeholders (and we know by now who that includes). Furthermore it should provide us with data, information, knowledge and insights to fuel innovations.

      The Next Big Thing is all about innovations that disrupt markets. Social CRM or Social Business Design will not disrupt markets in itself. That’s why I state it is not the Next Big Thing. But, if your company is aiming to create new and sustainable growth, you better implement a Social XYZ-strategy, because without it, there is a more than average risk that your market will be disrupted and it will not be your market anymore.

      Thx again for sharing your thoughts here.


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  15. Basically what you are saying is that organisations need to play catch up. By then The Next Big Thing will have happened and it will require businesses to catch up yet again.

    We’ve gone from serving the ‘huddled masses’ to hyper-individualism (focus on customer jobs). My guess is that we’ll go back to putting the greater good back to the foreground of our preoccupations (community jobs), in parallel to customer jobs. We see this happening in ‘trends’ such as consuming environmentally friendly, community service (f.e., optimising the individual’s innovation contributions for the greater good of the company’s internal communities (and bottom-line).

    Do you agree with my POV, or am I being too idealistic?


    • Hi Mark,

      Thx for your contribution! And I like what you’re saying. My line of thinking is that the real disruptive innovations over the past have come from making a big world smaller. It started with trains, cars and airplanes, making it possible to travel longer distances in the same amount of time, thus making a smaller world. Soon to be followed by telephone, television and the internet, bringing the world to your house. With mobile technology both have been combined and this I think is the real last Next Big Thing, and it is currently happening still..

      All this technology has brought us in an age where I is the most important element of life. Businesses developed around this with CRM (one to one marketing), CEM and personalization of the experience through co-creation. I do follow your thought that the I age, with a focus on the specific customer job, will morph into a We age, where community or even real “social” jobs play a more dominant role. Your own “Social Object Communities” are another good example of this trend.

      Ergo: like it and look forward to expanding on this thought in combination with views from others on the NBT.

      Thanx for sharing!


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