An Algorithmic Versus a Heuristic Business Approach (to Customer Engagement)


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I’ve been reading Dan Pink’s book, “Drive,” and while I’m only 50 or so pages in, I can say that so far it’s a pretty interesting read. One particular area of the book mentions the difference between algorithmic vs heuristic ways of getting things done. Dan breaks down the difference between algorithmic and heuristic ways of working as being the same as process centric vs more creative ways of working – with algorithmic being process centric. If you want the full definition here’s Wikipedia:

An algorithm is an effective method for solving a problem expressed as a finite sequence of instructions.

A heuristic is a “rule of thumb”, an educated guess, an intuitive judgment or simply common sense. A heuristic is a general way of solving a problem.

For customer engagement and social media I feel like we all started off with a general, creative, “heuristic” approach to solving business problems but, as we start to integrate deeper within an organization we notice that the “algorithmic” or process-centric approach is becoming more and more important to understand. It also makes sense to look at the front end of social media engagement as being heuristic while the back end is much more algorithmic. This might sound familiar to those of you who swim in the social media pools because an oftentimes debated topic is “how do you take unstructured data from the web and present it in a structured way”. While this concept is focused around data – and I know folks like Radian 6 and Attensity already do a pretty good job there – my question is around the strategy or perhaps the business side of bringing together structured and unstructured practices.

In the enterprise 2.0 world (or internal collaboration) unstructured collaboration has become the most successful way to approach things. I believe that this same form of unstructured collaboration needs to be applied to the customer engagement or Social CRM side of things as well. Instead, I oftentimes feel as though we are doing the exact opposite and are trying to instill a structured way of doing things. Herein lies what I believe to be an interesting challenge. I would categorize CRM as an algorithmic practice, one that is dependent on business rules, processes, and a specific sequence of instructions that need to be carried out. Social media on the other hand is what I believe to be a much more heuristic type of practice (even though many people are trying to turn it into something more algorithmic), one that doesn’t have strict business rules and defined processes but instead depends much more on creativity and perhaps ad-hoc solutions.

So how do social and CRM need to work together? How do you merge and bring together a heuristic business discipline and make it work with an algorithmic discipline? More importantly, how do you do it well or can you? Again, I think this is one of the challenges we are starting to see creep up amongst companies that are getting involved with social media.

I mean, clearly there are plenty of companies out there that have been involved with social initiatives for quite some time now and it seems as though these organizations are quite pleased with the current results they are seeing, but what’s going to happen in the future? At CRM Evolution the consensus was that data and analytics are the largest untapped and under utilized field within Social CRM at the moment so I think it will be interesting to see what develops there.

I have some thoughts on this but let’s open this up to a general discussion. What do you think?

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Jacob Morgan
I'm a best-selling author, keynote speaker, and futurist who explores what the future of work is going to look like and how to create great experiences so that employees actually want to show up to work. I've written three best-selling books which are: The Employee Experience Advantage (2017), The Future of Work (2014), and The Collaborative Organization (2012).


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