Last Sunday, I had the honor of being a featured speaker at SocialDevCamp Chicago, an annual technology conference. From their website,
SocialDevCamp Chicago is a weekend conference + unconference + hackathon all about making the most of the social web. It’s the event for social app and platform developers, mobile developers, strategists, evangelists, and enthusiasts. At SocialDevCamp you’ll join hundreds of passionate developers and creators for a weekend of robust talks on social platforms, apps, APIs, mobile experiences, identity management, and new media.
The presentation was on Thin versus Thick Value, an hour long lecture on how enterprises need to rethink their strategy by making social responsibility the core of their business, rather than an ancillary line item. Here are the slides if you’re interested in learning more. I borrowed the term and philosophy from Harvard Business School Professor Umair Haque, who based many of the same fundamentals from fellow Harvard Business School Professors, Michael Porter and Mark Kramer. Some of the fundamentals are similar to Jim Collins’ Good to Great. My addition to the conversation was incorporating how and why this mattered for startups, innovators, and small businesses in creating sustainable competitive advantage over their peers.
Industrial aged capitalism was about extracting value: bashing competitors, using monopoly power, short-term gains at the risk of long-term health, draining natural resources, strangling suppliers and the value chain, and the separation of society and the business. Throughout the presentation, I showed several companies that are pivoting to use social responsibility as the core of their operations for sustained competitive advantage. And to define social responsibility, it’s examining every strategic decision by what’s best for all involved: employees, resources, partners, suppliers, consumers, and the communities. Companies such as GE, Intel, Wal-Mart, Starbucks, Nike, and Google are utilizing these strategies, many companies you wouldn’t associate with being “socially good”. There are two dynamics at work with these companies: loss advantage, utilizing waste as revenue generation/cost savings, and the positive externalities of doing what is right. This is augmented by Social Media, the ability to spread a message with a velocity that has never occurred in the 20th Century.
One of my worries prior to the presentation was to be labeled a “socialist” or have this issue politicized. The argument I was making was not a moral or political issue, but more of an economic issue for innovation and sustainable competitive advantage. I believe that “thick value”, the ability to use social responsibility as a source of competitive advantage, has the power to unleash the next wave of global growth and innovation. For one, they’ll have the resources by minimizing loss and the positive PR of doing what is right. I was impressed with the acumen of the attendees, who focused on the economic benefits of this strategy, and didn’t make it only a political/moral issue. Obviously they play into the overall analysis, but I felt good that the message appeared to be easy to digest.
Teaching an undergraduate or graduate course is not quite like presenting to a conference, especially a highly informed audience that are leaders in their organizations. Special thanks to Tim Courtney, Andy Angelos, and Veronica Ludwig for giving me the opportunity to present. It was my first presentation at a conference, one that I’ll never forget.
Here’s some of the feedback from my presentation on the web.
Lessons Learned From Social Dev Camp by Bill Dagiantis
Session: Thin versus Thick Value
“It’s not about altruism, it’s about the market realities and what’s coming.” –Emile Cambry
Emile is the first economist / M.B.A. who says that, “the only way we’re going to bounce back from these hard times is for businesses to fundamentally rethink their purpose. We need to take businesses (capitalism) and integrate them back into society.” He shared a few examples of companies that are becoming better global citizens and improving their finances and reputations at the same time. He’s one person that’s speaking about these things and pointing out that being socially and fiscally responsible are not mutually exclusive.
I enjoyed the event and will immediately use what I learned. For example, one of our clients is a small start up and we’re working to help them define the business. I will mention the highlights from Emile’s presentation while we’re reviewing and suggesting changes to the business purpose…
Bikes, geeks, beer, tweets: why Iwant to hug you all, by Saya Hillman
- Be willing to disrupt yourself
- Social Entrepreneurship – get on this train!
- Social Change film festival coming to Chicago