"Social" Business: What do I do? Where do I go next?

This post has been on LinkedIn for a while, but I thought I would re-post here too. Original post is here.

I’m trying to work out how to explain the value of what I do and where I go from here career-wise. I hope this post helps others in similar community/learning/collaboration jobs find it useful. 

There’s an emerging role in organizations and I’m lucky enough to have one of them. However, it’s hard to pin down a definite description, despite the enormous value such roles bring. Many people ask what I and others like me do. Here I'll try to explain, based on my experiences and conversations with others. 

We are internal culture entrepreneurs, stripping away power to help people to connect at a human level. The purpose of our work is to make big, traditional organizations more human, agile and responsive. We bring enormous business value (productivity, engagement, innovation etc.) as we work with others to co-create new ways of working. 

We understand the business value of social learning, community, collaboration - all facilitated (not driven by) collaborative technology. From my experience, we tend to come from backgrounds in L&D/HR, Communications, IT or marketing (my background is in L&D). We use techniques from a diverse set of ideas including lean startup, marketing, design, and product psychology among many others. We work with individuals or small groups at a time. We sell new ideas about ways of working every day and bring business value with each one.

And we are changing organizations from the bottom-up. Using methods unlike traditional formal change management efforts, we rely on the informal, conversational and experimental. This tends to complement formal efforts. But much of the time, the informal is far more effective. 

We like technology, but are not beholden to it. It’s an enabler, not a cause of these changes. We tend to go undetected, generally under-appreciated, and under supported (very often a team of one). Usually, we sit in HR, Comms, or IT, but really should collaborate across all three and business units. 

Neither a special generalist nor a general specialist, we have a role that is hard to pin down and even harder to establish any clear career path. There are many areas of expertise we understand and draw upon to develop our ideas and experiments. We may not be experts in the wide variety of areas that I list below, but we understand these well enough conceptually to apply practically. 

Where do I head next? "CLO", HR/OD strategy, IT strategy - they don't seem to fully "fit". I'm intrigued to understand others' experiences. 

Have I managed to speak for a wider “we”? Do you find yourself in a role like this? What are your career plans? What else can I add to the list? 

 The List:

  • Personal Knowledge Management
  • Social and informal learning (not traditional “training")
  • Performance support
  • Qualitative and quantitative research and analytics
  • Innovation and creativity through connection
  • Networks 
  • Agile
  • Lean startup
  • Product psychology
  • Psychology of engagement (employee, etc.) 
  • Coaching
  • Facilitation
  • Community management 
  • UX
  • Design thinking
  • Process redesign
  • Sociology of organizations 
  • Sales/selling
  • Digital marketing
  • Social media
  • “Future of work” Technology
  • Crowdsourding