I was scrolling through Facebook one day, as I am prone to do, and I came upon a post from Olivier Blanchard mentioning the book Humanize. He said it was really good. Jason Konopinski then came along and confirmed that the book is a must-read. While I love arguing with those two, I took their reviews as a pretty solid hint that I should give the book a try.
I’m rather glad I did, so thanks, guys!
At its core, Humanize, to me, is a road-map to becoming a truly “social business.” That phrase has begun to approach “buzz word” status, but the way authors Jamie Notter and Maddie Grant describe this progression is far from your run-of-the-mill social media OR business book.
Explaining what this book is about is going to be terribly difficult in the short span of a blog post. Given that, I’ll preview a few key points that the authors press on, and hopefully that will be enough to whet your appetite.
We need to get away from machine-thinking
Early on in the book, Notter and Grant talk about the fact that our current business world revolves around mechanics. We have an “engine,” we have systems, we have logical and linear progressions. It’s not that these things are necessarily bad, but social media has made them out-of-date and no longer effective. The world no longer moves in systematic, linear ways. The future cannot be foretold (if it ever could). In order to become a truly social business, companies need to embrace those hard to explain, warm, mushy human traits like trust, relationships, and a decentralization of power.
We need to be open within our company walls, outside our company walls, and as individuals
Often times throughout the book the authors talk about those “leadership retreats” your bosses may have undertaken at various times. Only a select few are invited and very seldom are the goings-on of these meetings discussed with everyone else. Notter and Grant talk about the fact that while having a sense of leadership within a company can be okay, a social business will strive to incorporate everyone into important meetings. If that makes you sweat as a leader, you need to read this book immediately.
Those often-used words, authenticity and transparency, do make an appearance in the book, but they are defined honestly rather than through a haze of cliché. If you say that you embrace diversity, you really need to embrace diversity. If you say you believe in environmentally sustainable practices, you really need to walk your talk. Indeed, many segments of the book are divided based on “walk,” “talk,” and “thought.”
Finally, a social business must be the sum result of individuals who are open with and about themselves. Grant and Notter note often that in order to make the whole system work in an ideal way, each individual needs to fully understand and accept what they are good at and what their weaknesses are.
We need to embrace change and conflict
This will really make you feel queasy. Humanize suggests that companies can only truly be social, human, innovative, and generative if everyone is willing to accept change and conflict. Conflict doesn’t mean fist fights, by the way. What the authors mean is that if you notice someone not performing well in another department, you openly discuss that with them directly. And in a truly social business, that person receiving the feedback will trust you enough to know that you are looking out for their best interest and the company’s best interest. You all are after addressing problems before they become truly huge problems.
Like I said, this is not your typical business or social media book.
What I loved most about Humanize is what is hardest to get across in this brief space. The authors do a brilliant job of paralleling the rise of social media with the rise of management practices in business. They contrast the human-oriented world of social media with the still machine-based world of business, and they focus on that point of intersection, that point of conflict. It’s in that little spot, that bullseye, where social businesses are born.
As I read this book, I thought about The Now Revolution, which would be a good supplement to the sections focusing on culture. I also thought about Olivier Blanchard’s Social Media ROI (which is quoted) and Christopher Barger’s Social Media Strategist. I think with these four books in hand, you’ll have a real compass that can guide your company not just to being a “social business” in the abstract, but also to all of the benefits those changes can create for you.