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How social media is driving global transparency in business.

Ricoh Transform is no longer active. You can keep up to date with the latest thinking from Ricoh UK on our new blog, Ricoh Insights.

What happens when you create a world where it’s theoretically possible for every individual and every group to connect? From a sociological perspective it’s quite predictable. We do what we’ve always done – make and maintain relationships.

However, there are a few fundamental differences with social media. Now, we share ideas, share concepts, share beliefs and recreate our social infrastructure without geographic boundaries. How will these affect your business?

 

All data, everywhere

 Whilst the Internet and Social Media do provide a façade of anonymity, the truth for the majority is far from that. We are in an unprecedented time of data. This information is created by millions of users and organisations every day. Even our mundane images of breakfast, complaints of traffic and drunken evening posts are recorded for the world to see.

In this space, we speak and post openly without offending our like-minded peers. However, everything we record can be seen, shared and commented on by anyone. The obvious example of this recently is from job hunting and recruitment. It is now common practise to review someone’s social media postings and views before interview. Companies now systematically monitor their employee’s voice on the Internet.

 

The impact on corporate responsibility

 This transparency of all our online (and offline) activities along with wider group discussions can have a long term, overwhelming drive towards a better world. It is no coincidence in only the last 10 years corporate behaviour has also been under the microscope.

The same mechanism contributed in part to the financial crisis in 2008, public and widespread debate, accelerated action and the recent tax avoidance of many large multinational companies. It also urged transparency regarding supply chain, manufacturing process and virtually every organisation’s sustainability and corporate responsibility credentials.

The net effect in business is that we are in an unprecedented period of business taking sustainability and corporate responsibility seriously. Initially driven by risk avoidance and fear, this has started to translate to pride as we realise that this can be done in a way which reduces costs and increases brand awareness.

Look at our current and next generations entering the workforce. It is no coincidence that ‘Generation Y’ and ‘Generation Z’ have these core values when they have been brought up in a world where good and evil are transparent. The future looks less bleak as we change to do the right thing and bring the next generation into our organisations.

 

Making the digital physical

 In the late 20th century and early 21st century, we created of a high speed, resilient network connecting all of our computing power. In doing so, we effectively created a new mode of transport, moving information (1s and 0s) instantly across the planet. It is therefore no wonder then that we strive to use this new tool along with innovative ideas to transport all our produce and output where possible.

This continues as more and more output is digitised. We are currently in the embryonic stage of 3D printers where it is now possible to email, print and copy physical objects. Now imagine the impact of the embryonic ‘3D printing’ or additive manufacturing once this technology matures.

Effectively, the ability to instantly copy and distribute all output and produce has created the most effective manufacturing plant imaginable. Now it is possible to download and consume. The associated cost disappears from the manufacture, supply chain and sales engine.

Once the produce is created the rest is free. In creating the most efficient manufacture and distribution process we eliminate the value of the product. What is left is the intellectual property of the product.

 

‘Open source’ innovation from the crowd

 Imagine a group of enthusiastic hobbyists who collaborate to create newer, faster and more reliable products. They are encouraged only by their passion for a subject and the social recognition possible thanks to Social Media. There is no, or little financial reward or gain, these groups are ‘working’ for free on their hobby. This phenomenon is ‘crowd sourcing’.

This adds to the previous concept in digitisation and the effect on value. What happens when collaborative groups work together (without single ownership) voluntarily to create or enhance new produce, where this produce is digital and replicable or shared? The output is available to all, designed by many and most importantly, it’s free. This concept is ‘open source’.

These two new concepts have arisen from collective social media. Individuals working together as a single group on a personal interest create, refine and enhance digital produce. This is hugely powerful and has moved social media from personal interest into a disruptive force in business.

On a larger scale in our connected world, all activity is recorded and globally visible. With global visibility comes global transparency which drives us to question and control our actions. This has driven corporate responsibility and individual accountability.

Lastly, the drive to digitise all produce has resulted in the most efficient manufacturing and distribution engine ever. This combined with ‘crowdsourcing’ and ‘open source’ has started to remove ownership and value for produce. Individuals are effectively working for their passion along with social recognition and distribute this work for free.

Find out how Ricoh has helped businesses prepare for the advent of new technology. Contact our Workplace Services team here.

Ricoh Transform is no longer active. You can keep up to date with the latest thinking from Ricoh UK on our new blog, Ricoh Insights.

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