Business 2.0, Social media & networking, Sustainability, Work

What’s next?

Over the past few months I’ve been thinking a lot about “what’s next” for Zumio. Since Zumio’s inception about 18 months ago I’ve had the opportunity to work a bunch of great people on challenging and diverse projects. While I’ve enjoyed the chance to stretch myself in a variety of capacities, a few focal points of interest have emerged that I want to explore more actively.

I’ve found that when I’ve been engaged on a “social media” project, I’ve wanted to bring elements of User Experience into play. When I’ve been working on wireframes, I look to understand the social impacts of the interfaces we’re designing.

In all of this my aim has been to get a deeper understanding of the business and community priorities driving the work we do and looking for opportunities to create win-win solutions – ones where interactions provide value for both my client(s) and the communities they are participating within.

I’ve been searching for a good description for this. To me it’s a deeper engagement than just “social media” – I’ve been invited to participate in a couple of projects that could be best described as “buzz generation” campaigns and recognised that this is not what Zumio does. When I talk about “bottom-line” benefits, they are usually not directly “selling” or “marketing” oriented, in the traditional sense. It’s also not “service design” – though I love the term and think we need more of it.

When I work with an organisation my approach to their “business” (I use “business” in the broad sense of the term – e.g. the business and “bottom-line” of a non-profit organisation is achieving policy or advocacy outomes) borrows elements of User Experience (using tools such as personas and user stories, brand development techniques etc.), but it’s not just about building a tool or delivering a service – my interest is in understanding how these tools can facilitate deeper business change that can generate greater value by embracing the spirit and principles behind “Web 2.0”, rather than just using them to create a great deliverable.

When I heard James Dellow from Headshift talk at Public Sphere recently he used the term “social business design” (a reflection of both Headshift’s and their parent, Dachis Group’s focus), which really resonated with me at the time.

Having since done a series of internal workshops to refine my thinking around Zumio with my friends and colleagues Penny Hagen and Rod Smith, and having read further about what is conceived as “social business design”, I have come to realise that this where my strengths and interests lay. It is the thread that weaves through my seemingly diverse experience, clients and projects that I have undertaken over the past 10 years.

Gaining an understanding of this has been a real “light bulb” moment for me (albeit one that has taken months to formulate) – helping me to understand what it is I actually do. I’m looking forward to developing these ideas further, especially when focused on creating a more sustainable future, both environmentally and socially. I think these two society-changing ideas – social business design and sustainability – will play increasingly important roles into the future.

P.S. you may have noticed some changes on the site recently – this is a reflection of this change in focus. While not 100% right (I wonder if these things ever are?), I certainly think the site better reflects this focus and better represents the services Zumio offers. Any feedback you have would be most welcome.