We would like to thank Robert Jeffery for his People Management review of The Social Organization:
There might not be an I in team but, as the overwhelming and ongoing focus on leadership in the business world demonstrates, work is still all about the individual. And yet, as society becomes more inter-reliant and technology connects us all more closely, that’s counterintuitive. It’s time, says notable HR blogger Jon Ingham, to focus on social capital rather than human capital.
“In many organisations,” he writes, “I find excellent work being undertaken in HR, property, IT and other disciplines, but these areas are often not talking to each other… or, even if they are, do not have a common perspective on what they are trying to achieve.” Ingham sees HR as the unlocker of organisational social capital – the idea that the less formal links between people, and the knowledge they share, are more important than the structures in place around them.
The profession, he argues, should be generating its own business outcomes, not seeing itself as a support function, and should stringently measure its social achievements. And he also knows how: by experimenting seriously with decentralisation, reducing harmful internal competition, using technology to create meaningful relationships through tools such as hacks, harnessing social data technologies and removing the vestiges of status (goodbye guaranteed parking spaces), to name just a few.
HR has a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, says Ingham, to create new structures (for example, matrix or networked organisations) and he looks in depth at the likes of Morningstar and Spotify, which have tried just that.
The result is a complex, serious book brimming with ideas that challenge HR convention, such as reward structures or the concept of organisational values, with genuine panache. While the case studies could have been more surprising (and more UK-focused), the sum of the parts is an important, realistic and frequently inspirational book that implores HR to do things differently – and isn’t afraid to show it how.