6
PUTTING SOCIAL MEDIA TO WORK
Emergent Solutions, Inc., is a global leadership and organi-
zation development consulting firm headquartered in Palo
Alto, California. With an extended team of more than sixty-
five trusted and skilled consultants across the globe, Emergent
Solutions considers collaboration o ne of its hallmarks. The
company actually refers to its network of consultants as ‘‘the
Guild,’’ connoting the supportive interaction that has been
essential to its success.
Social media has played a large role in Emergent
Solutions’ productivity, improving its collaboration and
streamlining its operations. Says Chris Cavanaugh-Simmons,
managing director, ‘‘Precisely a year ago, circumstances
conspired to get me to look at social networks. An
acquaintance told me that I should look into social
networking and wikis, and recommended that I read up on it.
The first thing that struck me was how Emergent Solutions’
goals and values meshed perfectly with the principles of a
wiki: being open, peering, sharing, and acting globally. So I
got incredibly excited about the possibilities.’’
Chris realized that as Emergent Solutions grew, it had
increased client projects globally, but was not adequately
leveraging the collective intelligence of its skilled consultant
community. It subsequently missed opportunities for synergy,
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130 SOCIAL MEDIA AT WORK
innovation, and agile responses to clients. Emergent Solu-
tions also had to focus on operational processes and basic
workflow. Cavanaugh-Simmons remembers how frustrating
this was: ‘‘We’d been buried in the transactional processes
needed to run our business, and our high-level strategies and
long-range dreams were temporarily on hold.’’
Enter social media. Emergent Solutions’ initial primary
tool of choice was a wiki because of its intrinsic value as a tool
for community collaboration. The company looked at several
solutions, and finally selected SocialText as its partner.
To date, Emergent Solutions has developed several wiki
workspaces:
The Community Space for sharing current topics, events,
discussions, resources, best practices, and lessons for
improving internal effectiveness or customer solutions.
A ‘‘design lab’’ for the full-time staff to post projects for
tracking, visibility, accountability, and transparency
A ‘‘wiki hub’’ accessed via Emergent Solutions’ Web site,
where clients can go without a password to learn and share
insights regarding strategy, leadership, and organizational
challenges. Emergent Solutions consultants often post
current research and lessons gleaned from their ongoing
work experiences.
A Strategy as Narrative wiki for the community of consul-
tants, external thought leaders, and customers who have
assisted in the creation of this new premier offering.
Private client spaces set up to capture insights, questions,
and ideas in ongoing executive coaching relationships or
consulting engagements.
The benefits have been clear. Playing on the term ‘‘Web
2.0,’’ Emergent Solutions now uses the term Consulting 2.0 in
explaining to clients how its collaborative approach delivers
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PUTTING SOCIAL MEDIA TO WORK 131
better results quicker. According to Cavanaugh-Simmons,
‘‘We call social media a utility. It has become a critical
component of our operationit’s just as important to us
as the light and the heat.’’ Emergent Solutions has seen
clear improvement in the quality of its service for its clients
as well as in operational efficiencies. Once, for example, a
customer sent a difficult request to Cavanaugh-Simmons,
and she immediately blasted the request to the Guild. The
collective responses were captured on the wiki, and Chris
was able to review their input, transfer it to a document, and
deliver it to the customer overnight. She ‘‘wowed’’ the client
with her speed and depth of insight. ‘‘We really walk the talk
in using Web 2.0 to enable our Consulting 2.0 strategies of
partnering, transparency, and agility,’’ says Chris. ‘‘This is a
great way to illustrate to our client how our global capabilities
and collaborative power add value.’’
In fact, the use of social media has improved Emergent
Solutions’ internal processes so much that the company
was able to avoid hiring a full-time employee. Of course
implementing social media wasn’t easy. Many of Emer-
gent Solutions’ highly experienced consultants were not
as tech savvy as they wanted to be, and some of Emer-
gent Solutions’ previous technology implementation efforts
had fizzled. However, Emergent Solutions’ partner, Social-
Text, was responsive in smoothing out technical glitches and
improving features.
Cavanaugh-Simmons viewed Emergent Solutions’ imple-
mentation of social media as successful in part because the
company viewed the process just as it would any complex
organizational change for its own customers. Here are some
of the lessons learned:
Share the vision and begin the conversation. First get
the partners aligned, then key staff, then the larger com-
munity, so that everyone can see where you’re headed,
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