The Black Box and the White Box: Moving towards better collaboration with markets

“Capturing the full potential value from the use of social technologies will require transformational changes in organizational structures, processes, and practices, as well as a culture compatible with sharing and openness.”
~McKinsey Report, “The Social Economy: Unlocking value and productivity through social technologies, McKinsey & Company, July 2012.

WHAT IS THE BLACK BOX: Wikipedia defines the black box as follows, “In science and engineering, a black box is a device, system or object which can be viewed solely in terms of its input, output and transfer characteristics without any knowledge of its internal workings, that is, its implementation is “opaque” (black). Almost anything might be referred to as a black box: a transistor, an algorithm, a business process, or the human mind. The opposite of a black box is a system where the inner components or logic are available for inspection, which is sometimes known as a clear box, a glass box, or a white box.” (SOURCE: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Black_box)

BUSINESS HAS TO MOVE OUT OF THE BLACK BOX: Business must move toward the white box model for one simple reason: more access to customer collaboration. We live in an age where customers and employees work together on products, services and programs. The most effective product lines, service offerings and policy programs involve customers in the development process. The reason this method is so effective is because the customers have a previous experience that contributes value. The professional expert who has worked for years in a specific business niche can benefit massively from amateurs who have tried multiple variations. Major brands are involving customers in the development of next season’s fashion line, governments are inviting citizens to work with policy makers, and customers now lead service communities under corporate umbrellas. As the old adage goes, “many hands make light work”.

MOVING TO COLLABORATION: In business, black boxes have been essential in a competitive market, to protect sensitive internal processes in development. If one’s competitor can see how one develops an application, a program or a product, then he can take it and improve it and beat you to market. Corporations have prioritized black boxes to protect their stakeholders and investment in people, materials and resources. But in many cases, these same black box eco-systems have created misunderstanding and conflict. And these misunderstandings are a primary reason why businesses are moving toward transparency. To state this another way: we exist within a world so clarified by social networks that many businesses are opting for collaboration models. Businesses are opting for white boxes.

Jacob Tell, an innovator in collaboration vs. competition at Oniracom, a leading lifestyle marketeing company, has said, “We’ve chosen a partnership model over a competitive model. This is a proper way to approach business in today’s increasingly networked world.” As a veteran of the Internet and people-person par excellence, Mr. Tell has identified a very true and helpful dynamic for today’s new paradigm of business — a humanized way of being and doing where we come together for a win-win.

THE WORLD WANTS THE WHITE BOX: Mr. Tell is not alone in his sentiments, either. Kim Stokely, a leading trainer of educators in the United States has said, “This time of history signifies the end of individualism and the beginning of collectivism.” The US Intelligence office has just published a Trends 2030 paper that states, “There will not be any hegemonic power in the future. Power will shift to networks and coalitions in a multipolar world.” Tom Oliver, of the World Peace Festival, has stated, “Until now the world has had no method that systematically deals with violent conflict. To fill this void, experienced peace builders from across the globe have got together with government officials, civil society and the military to design a strategy that could prevent war and resolve violent conflict. This strategy works at all levels – from the bottom up and top down.”

The entire human community cries out for a unified and transparent world group of leaders that move from competing black boxes to collaborative methods of dealing with conflict, poverty and disaster. The world needs and wants a White Box paradigm and good 21st century corporations, banks and governments will step into this clear room together. Peace is quite possibly the number one reason for entering this white box paradigm and leaving the black box method.

RESOURCES:

DEEP TRANSPARENCY VIDEO:

HOW TO OPEN THE BLACK BOX – The method to opening the black box is straight-forward:
1. Research your customer using social media monitoring solutions. Listen to what your customer is saying.
2. Design a White Box program to invite your customer or fan into the process of your business. Base the strategy and aspects of this program on what you discovered through research.
3. Design safeguards in this program to protect your business from sabotage from competitors.
4. Allocate inner resources from every silo (HR, PR, Marketing, Sales, C-Suite, Customer Service, etc.) to handling different aspects of this White Box program. Designate one person to manage the entire program and be a liaison between the departments involved.
5. Design the campaign where you announce this program.
6. Launch the program.
7. Be sure to follow up on EVERY entry/suggestion. Allocate resources so that you can do this. This is a full-time job for one employee (or more, depending on the size of the operation).

SOURCES:
1. Here are 9 case studies where social media took out the middleman:
http://barnraisersllc.com/2012/04/9-case-studies-social-media-middleman/

2. The Current State of Social Engagement Inside the Large Enterprise:
http://www.slideshare.net/dachisgroup/current-state-of-social-engagement-inside-the-large-enterprise-engagement-scale-report

3. Transparency.org:
http://www.transparency.org/

4. Twelpforce Case Study Video:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uc6Z5KR-Oys

5. Framework and Matrix: The Five Ways Companies Organize for Social Business:
http://www.web-strategist.com/blog/2010/04/15/framework-and-matrix-the-five-ways-companies-organize-for-social-business/

6. Brandwatch
http://www.brandwatch.com/

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