Monday, May 05, 2008

Mini book review: Groundswell

Did you know that by reading this blog post you've been put into a category? Yep, at the very least you're a "spectator." In fact, you might be a "joiner", a "collector", a "critic" or even (as I am) a "creator." Where am I getting these labels? They all come from Charlene Li and Josh Bernoff's new book, Groundswell: Winning in a world transformed by social technologies.

This is by no means a new subject. There have been quite a few books in recent years that cover social technologies and how they can be used productively. But these books have tended to have either a more narrow focus (e.g., by focusing on particular technologies or organizational functions such as marketing) or an extremely broad focus. In Groundswell, Li and Bernoff, both VPs and analysts at Forrester Research, describe the current slate of social technologies and provide organizations with a road map of how they should (or shouldn't) be used.

Those of you familiar with Charlene's blog will recognize much of the content of the book--in fact to be honest there aren't a lot of new concepts in the book, which is a potential drawback. The book is, to a large extent, a collection of the various concepts that the authors have already published. But there's no denying that having it all in one place is mighty handy, and the in-depth case studies serve to flush out the details. And those of you that aren't avid readers of the blog will find much in here to digest.

So what is "the groundswell"? According to the authors it's "A social trend in which people use technologies to get the things they need from each other, rather than from traditional institutions like corporations."

These technologies include all the usual suspects, including blogs, wikis, social networks, forums, review sites, tags, RSS, widgets--you get the point. They also touch on newer technologies such as Twitter (which isn't so new anymore).

The biggest strength of the book lies in its description of two concepts:

- the social technographic ladder, a graphical description of various categories of technology participation. These are the categories I mentioned at the beginning of this post and it's how the authors suggest organizations stratify their customers to figure out what social technology will work best.

- POST, the authors' recommendation for how to plan to engage the groundswell. This deliberate, logical approach to using social technologies is the biggest takeaway from the book. It recognizes that not all technologies are appropriate for all organizations and provides users with a rational way of planning the strategic implementation of them.

On balance, the book is an easy read and provides a great mix of big picture considerations with real-world examples. Unless you're completely new to the subject it's not likely to rock your world, but if you're interested in using social technologies but aren't sure how, this is not a bad book to have.

What would improve the book? More specifics--details--on how exactly to use the technologies. Best practices for setting up a Facebook page, for example. The different blogging platforms and their pros and cons. It's not enough to understand the concept of the technology--you need to understand the technology itself.

So what does all this have to do with recruitment and assessment? Quite a bit actually, but mostly with the former (after all, check out where people spend their time). Tapping into social technologies is a great way to spread and monitor your employment brand--i..e, why should people want to work for you? It's also a great way to identify potential candidates and spread the word about opportunities. In terms of testing, we're not there yet (and won't be until we have a secure database of individual test scores). But maybe that's okay--after all you want a job-person match, not a person-test score match.

So why did I call this a mini-review? Because I haven't read the whole book (yet). I've read most of the beginning and latter chapters, but haven't made my way through the middle, which is comprised mostly of case studies. I don't claim to have read it cover-to-cover, so take this review with that in mind.

1 comment:

Tim said...

interesting book, thanks for the indepth review. I will be sure to check this one out