From Team work to Autopoiesis in the Social Firm


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Humans have always been social & until they were in villages, everyone knew everyone in their communities. With the growth of cities, and the rat race, a lot of that social aspect of humans is left underutilized. You know what happens to your muscles when you don’t any longer use them as you used to? Yeah. But thanks to the Internet & especially whats now called the Web2.0 tech, which gave rise to social media & social networking sites, and the ever increasing computing capabilities in the mobile phones, people can find some help in re-exercising their social ‘muscles’.

But this post is not about that. I wanted to talk about the Social Firm or the Social Business or the Social Enterprise (some call it the socialprise) and what potentials I see in them (mostly at a very high level, so high that its more like wishful thinking / philosophical).

Ever since I came across this wikipedia article on Autopoiesis (don’t remember how) I have been fascinated by the concept & have wished it w.r.t. the internal & external use of social technologies by a business/enterprise/firm.

Many organizations have now warmed up to the idea of leveraging the social media to reach out to ever growing number of people on the Internet and is mostly driven by either the marketing or customer service departments. Whats also interesting in this increasing adoption is that the tools required are mostly available in the cloud (or as SaaS if you prefer that term) and that means that the CMO (or whoever funds it) gets the subscription directly from the vendors and do not have to go to IT (CIO/CTO, whoever manages the enterprise IT) for help. This leaves the IT in the blind and they are not at all aware of the use of these tools by the business teams. Many a times, these tools are used more as an experiment – to dip the toes in the social media water, so to say. These pet projects are easy to sponsor since the subscription costs are usually within the budgets of many people in the business teams. Thus you might even see multiple teams using social media in the organization for different purposes! (This leads to a whole range of issues, lets not get into them now).

Many enterprises, the large ones especially (and per my own experience, mainly from the regulated industries) are increasingly interested in the role of social technologies inside the organization’s firewall. Well, for one, they are realizing its great potential in improved collaboration across the organization (and these are usually large in head count as well as geographically dispersed ones) and for another, they are channelizing the employees need to use social tech by providing a platform within the safe confines of the organization’s firewall. More use inside is correlated to less use outside (in public social media) and thus lesser risk. (Risk is lessened/mitigated in many number of ways, but lets not get into the details right away). Bottom line, these collaborative social technologies are finding increasing interest from an organizational initiative perspective. Since these are organizational initiatives and its IT, the initiative is driven by the IT department with heavy integration with all the business units.

And from my own experience in the last quarter of the first decade of this new millennium (the past 2-3 years) I can say that most clients who come to us seeking help with this internal use of social technologies they are aware that something is being done from a Social Media Marketing &/or Social CRM perspective but they are not interested in that and they don’t see it of being any relevance to the collaborative social technologies (also limitingly called as Enterprise 2.0).

I started my time with social technologies by implementing them for internal use, back in 2005-2006 and then slowly but surely covered ground with social media and eventually social CRM too. So I am very comfortable with which ever aspect you are looking at, technically speaking.

And I am worried about this cognizant (excuse my use of the word) avoidance of each other by the teams working on the external & internal use of social technologies in an organization.

Make no mistake, they both will have to integrate pretty soon in the game (say next 5-10 years, but thats just wishful thinking on my part, not any stab at predicting the future) but most probably they will end being like this:

Some might go to this stage:

But you know, the goal is Autopoiesis, the canocial example of which is the biological cell. 🙂 As wikipedia puts it:
The eukaryotic cell, for example, is made of various biochemical components such as nucleic acids and proteins, and is organized into bounded structures such as the cell nucleus, various organelles, a cell membrane and cytoskeleton. These structures, based on an external flow of molecules and energy, produce the components which, in turn, continue to maintain the organized bounded structure that gives rise to these components.
So how do we get from the current state of cognizant avoidance to an autopoietic system? Thoughts?

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Prem Kumar Aparanji
SCRM Evangelist @ Cognizant. Additional knowledge in BPM, QA, Innovations, Solutions, Offshoring from previous roles as developer, tester, consultant, manager. Interested in FLOSS, Social Media, Social Networks & Rice Writing. Love SF&F books. Blessed with a loving wife & a curious kid. :)


  1. Interesting concept, Prem. Perhaps the key characteristic of sCRM – once you look past the technological elements – is the increased transparency and collaboration between businesses and customers, at multiple stages throughout the customer lifecycle. This is something that has its roots in traditional CRM but needs new technologies and tactics to engage the social web and the social customer. For this to happen it makes sense that internal social tools are compatible with external ones.

    Within our intelecrm solution we’ve recently added internal social feeds as a function. As a result, staff are able to log into the same system to collaborate with one another, as they use for collaborating with customers outside of the firewall. I envision this – coupled with a strong strategic approach – will go some way to achieving the autopsies that you’ve mentioned.


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