Jun 23, 2010

Empowering Employees to be HEROes

One of the most useful books for businesses to become Organizations 2.0 - by leveraging online communities is Groundswell by Charlene Li and Josh Bernoff of Forrester. Charlene has moved on and co-founded consulting firm Altimeter Group and has written a book called Open Leadership while Josh is still with Forrester and has written a book called Empowered with Ted Schadler.

I haven't read either of the books (you got a review copy for me?) but was excited to read the principles of Empowered in a HBR article (which is free to view for a month!)

The interesting part for me is that the article gets to the main issue when it comes to empowering employees to solve customer problems using social technologies.

The authors coin the term HERO - an acronym for “highly empowered and resourceful operative” for such people. As they say in the article:

HEROes exist because technologies like Twitter, online communities, cloud computing, and online video are so easy to master and so cheap to set up. Employees, especially in marketing, sales, and customer service, see customers’ problems and use these technologies to solve them. Moving forward with their solutions creates challenges for three groups: the HEROes themselves, management, and IT.

In most companies, cultural resistance to empowering employees to use technology is systemwide. Keeping technology locked down and under the IT department’s control seems like the safe thing to do. It limits risk and prevents chaos. This traditional approach would be fine if not for the actions of all those empowered customers. Companies have to respond to customers’ escalating power. Their employees are ready to do so. The challenge is to encourage HERO-driven innovation without generating chaos.

To make it work there are three principles authors spell out:

  1. HEROes agree to innovate within a safe framework.

  2. Managers agree to encourage innovation and manage risk.

  3. IT agrees to support and scale up HERO projects.

Read the full article at HBR here.

You could contact Charlene on Twitter at @charleneli and Josh at @jbernoff
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