While we continue to see cycle after cycle of new applications and services arrive in the Web 2.0 space, it seems for the most part that we are seeing incremental innovation. This type of innovation builds a new step on top of an existing innovation.
We are also reaching a certain maturity in the way that marketers work with social media. There are now case studies on the effectiveness of social media, there are tools that help us measure and react to conversations and there are an increasing number of corporate roles for "community managers" or even "directors of social media".
So where does innovation go?
In this environment, the focus is no longer on learning the tools, but on refining the way that we interact with them. It is about bringing social media into our businesses, integrating it with our other marketing efforts and focusing efforts in a way that deliver business results. This will see ongoing debates about "where" social media belongs — PR, corporate communications, marketing, customer support, innovation etc — as well as a scramble amongst agencies to deliver "social media services" to clients.
It will also see a rise in the importance of the "Business Designer".
The Business Designer does not sit in a creative studio. Rather, she operates across business units — touching marketing, customer service and new product design. The BD has a finger on the pulse of finance and lives cheek-by-jowl with the legal team. There is the touch of the management consultant in the way that the BD navigates the org chart — but also the fervour of the evangelist. She may be T-shaped. She may be a green egg. But above all, she is an experienced business professional. That’s right — she knows how to get things done.
Social media saturation is not going to kill innovation in the Web 2.0 world. It is simply going to commence the heavy lifting required to move social media with all its benefits, some of its quirks and much of its energy into the "enterprise space". The BD will perform the important role of "change manager" or perhaps "transformation manager" — for the domino-like changes that will occur in every facet of a business will change the nature of the enterprise. What has been rough and ready in the consumer space will become refined and repeatable in the business world for the BD will select and orchestrate the practices, tools and approaches that correspond with a company’s business strategy. Of course, this will breed a whole new round of innovation in the technology space — we have already begun to see this with Yammer, the business version of Twitter.
And there will be a corresponding transformation in the process of business, and the goals and approaches of groups charged with managing brand touch points. This goes without saying.
But by far, the most radical transformation will be the one thrust upon us by the generational change that is now under way. With 60 million baby boomers about to be replaced by 60 million Millennials, the workplace will never be the same again. Managing the "knowledge transfer" that needs to take place over the next 5-10 years will be a fundamental responsibility of the Business Designer.