Moving From Me to We: The New Competitive Edge
Tuesday, April 29, 2008 / 2:15 pm - 3:30 pm
   
   

Moderators
Yoram (Jerry) Wind, Lauder Professor, The Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania; Founding Editor, Wharton School Publishing

Speakers
Lex Fenwick, CEO, Bloomberg LP
Barry Libert, Chairman, Mzinga Inc.
Dwayne Spradlin, President and CEO, InnoCentive Inc.
Yossi Vardi, Chairman, International Technologies Ventures

Facebook's recent valuation of $15 billion, bolstered by Microsoft's multimillion-dollar investment, sent a powerful message to corporate boardrooms across America: Social networks aren't just for kids anymore. Leading corporations like Nike and Amazon have seen the light and are reaping actual benefits from business social networks; other smart companies are jumping on the bandwagon of using these networks to solve problems.

Although traditional strategies have focused on a "me, my, and I" approach, this session highlighted a "we" approach that has emerged as the foundation for creating significant, sustainable change in the United States and abroad. Moderator Jerry Wind of the University of Pennsylvania suggested that "a 'we' perspective is a must today because of changes in globalization, technology and movement toward empowered consumers. This causes companies to change traditional approaches and go from 'me' to 'we.'"

This is especially challenging for the business community, which is typically more competitive than collaborative, he said, but that environment often produces limited financial gain and a certain level of stagnation. There is widespread agreement, supported by research, that the current business model must be transformed if we are to make any global advances. Although there are many ways to achieve this, the panelists agreed that these changes should be generated both within and outside of these organizations.

Yossi Vardi of International Technologies Ventures noted that an efficient way in which large organizations have changed the traditional business model has been to create an environment of "bottom-up innovation." This has been accomplished by empowering passionate employees to "run free and develop tools to help customers, employees and the organization." Best Buy and Proctor & Gamble were cited as perfect examples of such a movement. Two Best Buy employees created a web site that provided a medium for all employees to communicate with each other, which subsequently generated new ideas for improving customer relations and the company as a whole. Dwayne Spradlin of InnoCentive Inc. mentioned that Proctor & Gamble's CEO stated that "within five years, 30 percent of the company's innovation would come from a source outside of their organization." Dwayne believes that companies should encourage open innovation, which involves "inviting the outside world into the process and creating opportunities to empower younger business people."

Lex Fenwick of Bloomberg LP said he believes it is important to create a community around something (i.e., geography, a subject etc.) and to help that community with whatever it is trying to do. By capitalizing on the power of "we," financial gain will be generated for all businesses involved. More specifically, "if you want to build a community around an issue or problem, others will join for fear of being left out," he said.

An audience member mentioned that collaborating with other businesses may result in an organization losing its brand. Wind countered that "the brand is not under your control. It's how it's perceived by the customer." As such, Barry Libert of Mzinga Inc. suggested that a business should allow the collaborative "we" community to build the brand. In essence, "the brand belongs to the network using the brand." He stated that "American Idol" only does 10 shows a year but needs the brand to be carried all year round. Once they let the community build and use the brand, another hit show, "So You Think You Can Dance?" developed.

In spite of some issues and barriers, the panelists and audience members alike agreed that the "we" brain is better than the "me" brain. "We" must not be restricted to the organization but must involve the larger space. This will involve examining global innovations, recruiting people smarter than you and being willing to share the benefits so that it's a win-win for everyone. For in the end, said Wind, "the summation of brains is bigger than the value of each brain."