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Meeting Up at SXSW: Ted Shelton from PwC

One of the great treats of the recent SXSW was seeing a bunch of early movers in social media and how far they have come since Facebook was only a gleam in Mark Zuckerberg’s eye.  Brian Solis in bespoke splendor, Jeremiah Owyang at the Gigya panel, Maggie Fox at the Driskill, Susan Scrupski doing her new start-up, Peter Kim and Dion Hinchcliffe keeping a large crowd spellbound with new observations of their book… and so on.  Many of these celebrities were once humble participants in an online community that was started by Jerry Bowles, my co-founder of Social Media Today.  Look at them now.

By all rights, I should have met Ted Shelton before.  Shelton, now a Managing Director for PricewaterhouseCoopers, was a founding member of The Conversation Group, a seminal meeting-of-minds-cum-consultancy that included such smart thinkers as Haydn Shaunessy, and Giovanni Rodriguez.  It was a ground-breaking PR strategy firm that pointed the way to many of the ideas about transparency, inter-action and organizational change that we’re beginning to take for granted in the post-social revolution era.

Shelton’s new book, Business Models for the Social Mobile Cloud, takes many of the early precepts of The Conversation Group, as well as Andrew McAfee’s views articulated in Web 2.0, and pairs them with real-life data and current analysis.  Although as a PwC executive Shelton is hampered in his ability to use client information, he nonetheless has the latest public stats about the success of social business in today’s global enterprises.   

Shelton was motivated to write the book by his frequent conversations with senior executives who have a basic understanding, or awareness, that social mobile cloud has changed everything, but are at a loss to understand how to inculcate this change into strategy.  The book is envisioned as a “leave-behind” when a social business consultant like Shelton needs to have the weight of his extensive research and understanding put it a more palpable form.  For a business book, this is particularly well written, and Ted’s grasp of business history makes it a fun and intelligent read.

Core to his advice to senior management is his ADAPT model: awareness, denial, acceptance, progress and transformation.   By accepting that technological change has created a new dynamic to transactions, executives can lead their businesses (progress) to new ways of doing business.  As important as digitization is to the development of products (from running shoes to smart phones and electric vehicles, to name some examples) and to customer experience of those products, the most important adaptation business leaders can make is with newly inexpensive methods of communication, which lead to yet greater changes in organization, management and decision-making.

Remember the good ole days when a CEO had to spend time in the company gymsocial mobile cloud to find out what his employees were thinking?  Now you have instant sentiment analysis based on social media, of your employees, your customers and your influencers.  You have crowdsourcing to better predict financial results, and group collaboration to create better outcomes.  By breaking down internal barriers, between marketing and customer service, for example, your customers have a more engaged experience of your products and your brand.

But the book suggests nothing less revolutionary than an accelerated understanding of the changes being wrought.  CEOs are comfortable with hierarchies (that’s how they got to be on top) and in Shelton’s view, “hierarchies yield to networks,” and the enlightened CEO will actually break down his perceived authority to get things done. 

“We know at a macro level that creativity and value production come much more readily from free market economies than from centralized (ones)…. Key to your business is unleashing free market potential – using the social mobile cloud to reorganize the way work is done and role of leadership.”

Shelton is terrific at backing up his points with examples, even if they are generic: “a retail company,” or “the book-selling business” and even his mnemonics, like the ADAPT one mentioned above, are concrete and personal.  This book is really a self-help book for today’s CEO, with Shelton as M. Scott Peck telling global leaders that the way will be hard, they will have to change, but the change will not only guarantee survival, it will also collectively make all of us on a hot, crowded and flat planet better off. 

“Our new capacity to connect to one another and to communicate more deeply about ourselves will necessarily lead to greater authenticity…What we do with that new reality – whether we use it to persecute people who are different from ourselves or instead use it to celebrate the differences that make us stronger together – will ultimately say more about us than what has been published about us (so far.)”

Business Models for the Social Mobile Clowd is recommended reading for anyone in leadership…and all who aspire to it.

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  • Dennis Yu's picture
    Apr 25 Posted 4 years ago Dennis Yu

    Robin-- I concur. I first met Ted when he was still at Open-First. We spoke together at the SD Forum at Stanford, where he wowed the audience with practical ways to think about social ROI.

    So glad to see his book and that he's at PwC now.

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