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Empowered: Unleash Your Employees, Energize Your Customers, and Transform Your Business Hardcover – September 14, 2010
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" is a well-written, useful guide to how companies can empower their employees." - Ad Age
"If the future sounds scary, Empowered describes it in reasonable, even methodical terms. The book Empowered is a milestone for where things are headed, both for the business manager and the IT manager." - InformationWeek
" this book is a practical explanation of how social influence marketing, which is having your customers create customers for youworks! Loaded with lots of easy to understand cases, this is an information packed book demonstrating that social technology has become universal." Chief Executive
About the Author
JOSH BERNOFF is the coauthor of the Business Week bestseller Groundswell, the “best book ever written on marketing and media” (Advertising Age). He is senior vice president, idea development, at Forrester Research.
TED SCHADLER is a vice president and principal analyst in Forrester’s IT Research Group. His work over thirteen years at Forrester has focused on disruptive technologies and how senior decision-makers should harness them.
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Empowered has given the world a lot more than that. My title is unfair perhaps, because I liked this book, and the further I read the more I liked it. You cannot read a business book these days that doesn't introduce a new acronym, and I have come to see it as a proxy for strong knowledge or good writing. Fortunately Bernoff and Schadler are both knowledgeable and good writers, so I wish they wouldn't resort to gimmicks.
The best part of the book is the specific examples of real companies doing real projects, mostly Forrester customers. Empowered ties together many trends that, although I was aware of them individually, was not seeing them so closely interlinked. Social media (Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn), mobile computing, project management, information security, and the traditional roles of customer service are among the topics that are addressed. The hero of the story is, of course, the HERO, or highly empowered resourceful operatives who are dragging companies, kicking and screaming, into the 21st century.
HERO means more than it seems. Imagine a 2-dimensional matrix forming a quadrant--yes this quadrant is in the book, but not until chapter 8. On the X-axis (from left to right) is empowerment. On the Y-axis (from bottom to top) is resourcefulness. At the bottom left of the quadrant are disenfranchised employees who are neither empowered nor resourceful, making approximately one-third of most companies. The next one-third of employees are those who are locked-down--empowered but not resourceful. The smallest percent, maybe one-eighth, are those who are the rogues who are resourceful but not empowered. The rest are HEROs. The goal of organizations, then is not to expand that quadrant as big as possible, but to get the best people into the HERO roles and to get the organization behind them. Easier said than done, but there is a lot of substance in Empowered to help on the journey.
The book is divided roughly in half. Part one discusses HEROs and HERO projects in detail, including how they have saved organizations and how the lack of a HERO has led to substandard responses and embarrassing situations. Prominent here are the realities of social media and mobile technologies. Part two discusses actions organizations can take to enable the HERO. Similar themes run through the book, and this is not a collection of random blog posts.
Part one did turn me off in many places. The author seemed to target me, an IT professional and my colleagues as the chief disablers of HERO behaviors. I hope that we can be forgiven. We understand as well as anyone the complexity behind modern businesses, and how frail it really is under the hood. We are the individuals whose heads get beat whenever a server crashes or data is compromised, regardless of whether we had anything to do with the initial implementation. We've been SOX'ed, mandated, legislated, and audited to death. A little more respect would be nice.
Fortunately, the book delivers some more of that in part two. It recognizes some of the issues faced by IT and provides some guidance for IT professionals. It spends time on a couple IT leaders who have reached out to other business units to build creative and innovative solutions. Ultimately this is not about IT, but about the business leaders understanding the borders of the organization are no longer around its physical premise and its high-walled data centers. The borders around the organization are around its people. Employees and customers are using Twitter and YouTube, and the conduits for leakage is unfathomable. Employees have to exercise common sense and be professional. The emphasis of the Information Security office has to migrate from applying technical band-aids to engaging leaders and employees. It will happen, and I predict IT will be leaders in this process, not inhibitors.
The authors use case studies and personal experiences to help you work out plans to find and train the HEROes in your business, those Highly Energized and Resourceful Operatives who are willing to go beyond "business as usual" to take your business to a higher level. Perhaps "your" business isn't quite the appropriate way to write it - it's more like "their" business. As members of a team, HEROes have a stake in the success of the business they are a part of.
This doesn't mean just using the groundswell for customers, either, because the groundswell can be used internally, too.
The basis for any plan to harness groundswell technologies is based in the acronym "IDEA:"
Identify mass influencers
Deliver groundswell customer service
Amplify the voice of your fans.
This is often easier said than done. Thankfully Bernoff and Schadler provide a number of great examples to help give you ideas to put a plan together which will work for you, your team and your business. They even offer a tool to help you figure out if a project is worth taking on using the "EVE" score, the "Effort, Value Evaluation." I found this to be particularly helpful. Many times there are many good ideas floating around, but having a good way to evaluate them to separate the good from the great can be very handy.
Another great tool provided in Empowered is the HERO Compact. This is a contract, so to speak, between the HEROes in a business, management and IT. It separates and balances authority, responsibilities and scopes of the three main areas of a HERO-powered business. While not a comprehensive contract, it does serve quite well as the framework for formal or informal agreements or memorandums of understanding within a business to help smooth out possible areas of contention between different groups.
The last section of the book offers advice to those leading HEROes with ideas on how to equip, train and further empower them. This is key because HEROes are likely to be the kind of people who work and strive to do better. It's important that they be properly cared for and equipped or they will either quit putting forth the effort out of discouragement or (more likely) move on to somewhere else where their HERO attitude and work will be better put to use.
I recommend this book to anyone who is looking to tap into the groundswell to invigorate marketing and other business processes. Perhaps you have some HEROes in your business already and you just don't "get" them. Here's a great guide to help you understand where they're coming from and how you can help them - and even become a HERO yourself.
If you have not yet read Groundswell you may want to read it first. Although Empowered stands on its own, you'll probably get a lot more out of it if you read Groundswell first.
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