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(R)evolution Episode One: Empowering Your Employees and Customers with Josh Bernoff

Welcome to the premier episode of (R)evolution, a new series that connects you to the people, trends, and ideas defining the future of business, marketing, and media.

In show number one, Forrester’s Josh Bernoff discusses his new book Empowered, co-authored with Ted Schadler.

An old proverb declares, “may you live in interesting times.” Indeed we do. The markets that define the business landscape for brands, organizations, and local businesses are democratizing. At the same time, the dynamics of influence, who wields it, and how, is also transforming. Influence and attention are now equalized. As a result, businesses must now compete in domains where consumers define their experiences through the connections they decide to make. In order to compete for the future, businesses must now establish a presence and earn attention, build new connections, and cultivate meaningful relationships to foster trust, loyalty, and advocacy.

Now available, Empowered empowers business leaders to embrace a new genre of influential customers and employees. In a world where a single tweet can torpedo your brand, businesses must empower employees to solve the problems of empowered customers. The book provides real-world examples of how innovative leaders — and their teams — use technology to solve customer problems. Defined as HEROes — highly empowered and resourceful operatives.

If you’re an IT, marketing and strategy, or tech industry leader wondering how to get more creative solutions out of your team, this book is for you.


Andrew Landini, Producer

Adam Eckenfelder, Audio Tech/Re-Recording Mixing

Location: Portabello Grill, Redwood City


Brian: Hello everybody. I am Brian Solis, and welcome to Brian My guest today is Josh Bernoff, the author of a new book called Empowered, co-authored with Ted Schadler. Josh, you are kind enough to join me here on such a beautiful day. I think of playing hooky, but this video will prove otherwise.

Your customers now wield unprecedented power through social, mobile and other technologies. Your employees are already using these technologies to transform the way you do business. Empowered, what a good way to start the conversation.

Josh: Since we wrote Groundswell two years ago, the amount of activity on these social applications and social networks has exploded and it has also gone much more to mobile and to video. This means customers have an unprecedented amount of power. It also means that people within companies are using the same stuff as consumers and are realizing they can reach out in the same way. This is great. It is a good idea, but it creates chaos within those organizations, as so many people have ideas about new social applications – iPhone applications, whatever it happens to be. So, we really thought now is the time to help companies to understand how can you actually organize in such a way that you can take advantage of this activity, that you can become comfortable with it; that it can actually benefit your company.

Brian: You say chaos. I actually refer to this as also social anarchy within the organization as well as in the marketplace, because everyone is empowered, so who organizes it? Let’s talk a little bit about the organization first. Who is the roadblock right now within a lot of businesses that you are looking at?

Josh: The roadblock is your boss; it is the upper management, it is anybody who is uncomfortable with the idea that every employee now is in a position to actually represent the company and every employee is in a position to use technology, technology, so cheap and so simple that anybody in marketing and sales and customer service can actually be building these things.

The way to get past that roadblock is for the company to organize itself so that this activity is recognized and also to educate your own staff so they know what is and isn’t appropriate. So rather than shutting them down, it is a lot better to inspire them to work in ways that benefit the company.

That brings up some interesting questions. Like should everyone be empowered, and you talk about the idea of using technology to solve problems and in today’s economy where we need this hero.

Josh: Hero is actually an acronym that we have in the book. It stands for Highly Empowered and Resourceful Operative. And we all know these people. These are the people who come up with the idea. We should have a customer community; we should have a Facebook page; we should have an iPad application. We should build a way for people to see videos about our products. These ideas are relatively easy to implement and now people throughout the organization want to use technology to do them. This is a challenge to IT, which is used to controlling that technology and it is a challenge to management, which is used to controlling the voice that the company has.

Brian: When we start talking about sort of business evolution and empowerment, we start to run into the culture of the business. And so, how do you address the idea that technology was not in and of itself supersede culture or transform it? That’s actually going to be – it is going to take a Hero, and it is going to take a lot of champions. So how do you see, sort of this book helping individuals help redefine the culture of an organization?

Josh: In the first chapter of the book we talk about two companies, Whirlpool, the parent company and Maytag that had to deal with a person that had gotten very poor service ended up writing about just how bad it was and then Tweeting a Tweet that was seen by a million people about the challenges with these Maytag washing machines.

On the other hand, we also talk about Best Buy, where their system set-up called Twelve Force, 2,500 Best Buy employees are able to share one Twitter system to respond to problems and how that actually turns detractors into promoters of the company. And that is not a coincidence. That exists because Best Buy has a culture in which people who come up with ideas are supported. The CMO at Best Buy, Barry Judge, says, we like half-baked ideas. I wanted to make sure I understood that. Half-baked ideas. What does that mean? It means that if you come up with an idea and you haven’t quite figured it out yet, they are going to support you and try and turn that into a reality. And it was those half-baked ideas coming to fruition that created Twelve Force and made it possible for them to be responsive where other companies really haven’t gotten the cultural necessity or the cultural way of thinking to be able to get to that point yet.

Brian: You talk about this Four Step process to help businesses become a little bit more customer facing, a little bit more engaging. So why don’t you talk a little bit about that idea?

Josh: IDEA is exactly what it is. That is the Four Step process, IDEA. And these are the four things that companies need to do to become able to respond to customers that are empowered.

One, the I is identify your mass influencers so that this is define the people in your market that have the most influence. Sixteen percent of the people account for 80% of the influence, so you have to identify them. D is deliver groundswell customer service. In this environment we live in now, customer service is marketing because any of your customers could be Tweeting or writing about you. You have to be able to monitor that and deliver on it. E is empower with mobile information. That is really how to take customers and make them happy is to give them all the information they need, and the A is amplify fan activity. When you find the people who love your product, you have to find ways to take that activity and make it much more visible. We have a number of case studies in the book about exactly how that works.

Brian: Is empowerment enough? Is just the ability to have empowerment enough to be successful now, or do you think that there is going to be some notion of relevance in order to sort of, I guess, inspire resonance in an economy or in a social economy where attention is just so thin or focused for those optimists out there. What is it going to take beyond empowerment to really, truly engage?

Josh: Well, empowerment is just the beginning. And if you empower your employees, you end up with a lot of people doing a lot of stuff. It may or may not help the business. In fact, it is about getting those people to understand the company strategy and getting a process that enables their innovations to actually be recognized and supporting them. So, empowering your employees doesn’t work unless you have actually designed a management framework that enables them to work together and go from – I have a great idea – to I am actually doing something that can help customers and it is in line with the company strategy.

Brian: So, Josh, where can people get the book?

Josh: Well, it is available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and it is going to be in all the bookstores starting on September 14, and also a special offer. If you are seeing this just after Labor Day, and Tuesday through Friday, the 7th through the 10th of September, it will be available free for download on Kindle. So, if you have a Kindle that is one way to get the book really inexpensively.

Brian: Well, I do encourage you, whether you get it for free or whether you pay whatever the cover price is. Do pick up this book, because this is the age of empowerment. I will leave you with this, as Josh says in the book, “Overall, people generate 500 billion online influence impressions about products and services every year,” and as Josh said earlier, “16% of the people online generate 80% of the influence.”

So, with that, this is your time to empower your community and empower your employees. Thank you, Josh.

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119 COMMENTS ON THIS POST To “(R)evolution Episode One: Empowering Your Employees and Customers with Josh Bernoff”

  1. 1114organic says:

    in a world where your weakest link in your organization could be the one answering the phone in customer service or the support desk, businesses need to go though extra efforts to make sure all of their employees believe in their values, have drunk the cool-aid and believe that they too can make a difference in the company

  2. Kozan City says:

    yes I agree with you…

  3. M. Nease says:

    Is the Kindle version still available? The link turns up a dead end.

  4. Hey Brian, great video I definitely want to check out the book, only issues I had with the video is the traffic in the background was distracting. But love this new series your starting I enjoyed the 26dottwo videos as well!

    • briansolis says:

      Thanks for watching Angel! The traffic was louder than expected…we were shooting for a “take it to the streets” feel, but it's a learning process. More to come…going for a weekly rhythm.

  5. Mark Longbottom says:

    We definately live in interesting times and such a pleasure to find your interview and look forward to Josh's book, wish I could find more of these inspired people than the roadblock bodies of management. Thanks for sharing.

    • briansolis says:

      Thanks Mark…I do agree. This will take time as most (r)evolutions do…but we're on the right path. There are however, those leaders who still don't understand the opportunity as they're not dabbling in social whatsoever. In many cases, we still starting from the beginning. We need champions…

  6. Hello Brian!
    It's been a while since I've commented here. Shame on me. Do read daily though. Can't tell you what a thrill this is for me to see it going mainstream with your voice and influence, HBR, Forrester, Josh and many more.

    You can certainly count me in as one of the biggest ambassadors! This has been a passion and vision of mine since 2006 when I left my first agency gig. It's so interesting in that I've had a a handful naysayers (I'm sure there are and will be many against this just as there will be for). Anyway, they were caught up in particular on the word “empower” especially when matched to “voices of your brand”. I kept the faith though. I knew it was right and here we are seeing a tremendous team of major influencer's take it to the streets.

    You probably don't recall as you meet so many, but a few years back you and chatted on this topic in Chicago. I just remember being so thrilled getting meet and talk to one of the smartest voices in social media.

    Anyway, I think I've gushed enough on you! Reader are going to vomit (sorry). But I'm pretty sure you get it by now!

    I've been invited to dinner with Josh on Tuesday and am anxious to exchange thoughts around this vision. I would absolutely love to have a chance to chat with you as well. Not only can I share “the other side” from an HR brand, employee attraction, engagement, culture and retention, I've done extensive research in academia as well as the public and private sectors around Org Behavior and the multiple Social Science disciplines that make it up including Psychology.

    I do hope we have the opportunity to talk soon. I've always touted your work and you as “one of the only” if not “the only” social media expert out there who never lost the meaning of your work in the space. You keep pushing and digging and expanding, seeking answers for what's next. I admire you and your work.

    Looking forward to helping promote this and hopefully seeing the vision become a reality.

    All my best,

    • briansolis says:

      Thank you for such a wonderful comment. It does seem that a conversation with you would be both wonderful and helpful. Look forward to the opportunity. Lead the way…

  7. rickbakas says:

    WOW! This video is well done — production value, message, pace all well done. You just raised the bar (again), Brian.
    If there's anyone who didn't know Josh before now, they'll now who he is after watching this video. As usual, you have your finger on the pulse. Nice work.

  8. Awesome job Brian. You are definitely one of the few that keeps pushing the bar the way that resonates with most people that are still down to Earth: learning as we go. The quality of the video is superb and the concept (along with the background music and graphics) kept me engaged the whole time, no pun intended. Will definitely keep coming back for more and already put the book on my wish list (got to finish Delivering Happiness first). See you soon. ~Paul

  9. fsuangel77 says:

    Great video! I am a “HERO” within our organization and am ordering the books as I help write my own “Social Media Manifesto” which I plan on delivering to our senior team, from an individual contributor like me! Thank you for all your work. I have been championing this in our organization for a while now, and am finally starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel. We've hit some bumps along the way and the organization is afraid of being a moth to a flame (think SecondLife and the effort to build our island that no one ever visited). There is so much great data in this video and in the resources on your site, that I feel confident that my presentation will be persuasive.

  10. Josh Bernoff says:

    Thanks for all the comments, folks. Brian does video like a pro. (I was a little intimidated that the lighting box said “Diva Light” on it.) If he asks you for an interview, say yes!

    Regarding the free Kindle version, our pals at Amazon took that down on Friday, a little earlier in the day than we'd expected. But the Kindle version's back available again for the usual $9.99 price.

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