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About five weeks ago, Jeremiah Owyang and the team at Forrester Research published a report recommending that companies organize their social technologies in a “hub and spoke” model. This post attempts to merge that strategic recommendation with the best practices of systems theory.

The Hub & Spoke methodology advocates a cross-functional adoption of social technologies, as opposed to pursuing a Tire adoption (distributed adoption, where each business unit bakes a social web program “from scratch” without the oversight of any other teams) or a Tower adoption, where all technologies are centralized. (These models are capitalized for clarity’s sake).

Besides all of the mainstream business publications (Business Week , The Economist, etc.), there are a lot of publications out there aimed at CMOs and COOs. Chief Marketer , eMarketer and Marketing Pilgrim focus on CMOs, and Chief Executive and a number of niche publications (Journal Of Operations Management , etc.) directly address the needs of COOs.

I have yet to see any of these pubs write about “hub-and-spoke” in reference to the corporate social web strategy adoption. This blows our minds, because these executives need to know and understand systemic adoption theories of social technologies.

[A little note: Hub & Spoke is a term that goes back nearly two generations. According to Wikipedia, Delta Airlines began using hub-and-spoke distribution in order to compete with Eastern Airlines (see the graphic above to understand what this would look like in an airline’s flight map.] From an operational perspective, it certainly involves cross-functional teams working together, across multiple business units, to make Hub & Spoke work, operationally.

We’ve been doing a ton of reading on systems theory lately (The Fifth Discipline and Seeing Systems are great jumping-off points here). One of the key learnings, just from diving into the early points made by both authors, is that people at all level of an organization (tops, middles, bottoms, customers) suffer from two primary kinds of “blindness”.

Here’s what they are:

  • Spatial Blindness: blindness to other parts of the system
  • Temporal Blindness: blindness to the history of events in the system

And here’s how Hub & Spoke combats those two types of blindness

1. Spatial Blindness

  • Hub & Spoke creates spatial sight because it tears down barriers, internally and externally. It allows non-confidential information to pass between departments over extranets and the social web, and it allows strategic information to pass between departments via internal wikis and socially-enabled intranets.
  • Hub & Spoke creates spatial sight because, well-constructed business-focused social technologies include some kind of social proofing , which reinforces culturally appropriate behavior, and allows teams or initiatives that would normally “not see the light of day” to gain an organic rise in popularity.

[Great article about the iPhone & Social Proof, from Bokardo].

2. Temporal Blindness

  • Hub & Spoke creates temporal sight because it creates a searchable archive of social “transactions” and social capital within the company.
  • The historical information about the brand for the Customer group is already out there on the social web. Hub & Spoke creates temporal sight amongst all stakeholder groups (Top, Middle, Bottom, Customers), by focusing brand and customer data in such a way that all Top/Middle/Bottoms can see not only historical trending data, but be alerted, perhaps even automatically, to future friction points.

This will likely be the first in a series of posts, merging systems theory and social web strategy. The adoption of social technologies is nothing, if not systemic, and to holistically examine adoption, these two spheres must be examined together.