How to make business more social: the 5th annual Social Business Forum in Milan shows the way

07 Jun

It’s not all doom and gloom in Mario Monti’s Italy: this week in Milan the leading social business event in Europe saw hundreds of delegates descend on the city to discuss ways of making business better for companies and customers. The Social Business Forum 2012 was organised by OpenKnowledge, an international consulting firm that specializes in helping large organizations realize their business potential through open and collaborative approaches based on the Social Business paradigm. With keynotes from the likes of John Hagel, Co-Chairman of the Center for the Edge at Deloitte & Touche and Rawn Shah, Social Business Strategist at IBM, the SBF provided fresh thinking and lively debate, as well as some great networking opportunities.

Discussion and debate at the SBF in Milan

Now in its fifth year, the Social Business Forum has established itself as a regular fixture on the business innovation calendar and continues to attract not only the big name speakers, but an impressive gathering of key players and professionals from companies large and small – not to mention a healthy sprinkling of consultants and freelancers. The sumptuous surroundings of the Marriott Hotel in Milan provided an imposing backdrop to the event.

With an Open Conference running alongside the Premium Conference, the number of people who could enjoy the event was maximised – and everyone had a chance to visit the Expo Pavilion, where leading enterprise social software technologies were showcased.

Rosario Sica and Emanuele Scotti present the Social Business Manifesto

This year the Social Business Forum coincided with the launch of the Social Business Manifesto, a seminal text produced by OpenKnowledge and published with the Harvard Business Review Italia. As well as being a clarion call to business, the Manifesto contains 59 “theses” or propositions that are both observations and challenges for finding new ways of making business more about customers and employees and less about the companies themselves or their managers. (The Manifesto was written in Italian and sections are being published in English at regular intervals.)

Rosario Sica and Emanuele Scotti of OpenKnowledge presented a dialogue on the Social Business Manifesto and the theses, which include such nuggets as “The weak point of knowledge management is the management” and “Organizations react to stimuli in their market with a speed that is inversely proportional to their size”.

The Interpret the Future team

With so many international visitors it was crucial that as many of the insights and ideas being expressed could be shared. To this end, a special mini-project called “Interpret the Future” was established by OpenKnowledge and communications consultant Robert Dennis (the founder and editor of the Milan Business English Network). Interpret the Future brought together a crack team of young interpreters eager to gain additional valuable experience of conference interpreting. The project also aims to help the team explore new ways of promoting themselves as freelance professionals in a highly-specialised field of communication. A blog (called Interpret the Future) was set up by the team and they were able to use the occasion for networking as well.

The Social Business Forum lasted for two very busy days and covered a staggering range of topics related to the central theme of making relationships in business more human and personal and less process-oriented and target-driven.

You can find a wealth of background information and extras relating to the Social Business Forum on the main SBF website.

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