My previous post on popularity discussed the influence that crowds can have on consumer decision making and behavior. This post highlights how a company can use crowd-sourcing to improve its own decision making and behavior.
Few companies have the courage to fully expose themselves to the power (and potential pitfalls) of social media like the folks at Best Buy (disclaimer: a BD'M client).
Best Buy's CMO is a prolific tweeter (@bestbuycmo), using microblogging as an external internal communications channel to reach the 20-something year old Blue Shirts working in the stores who are unlikely to read email from HQ. Barry Judge uses this channel to invite suggestions and feedback beyond the protective bubble that normally surrounds senior executives.
The Best Buy Idea Xchange opens up Best Buy's innovation process to its best customers to suggest ways to improve the retailer's merchandising selection and business practices. I like the honesty and commitment expressed on the site. Here's an excerpt:
We're new at this. Its probably going to be messy for awhile. We'll probably miss stuff. We'll probably screw up. But we'll learn and get better as fast as we can. We'll blog every two weeks with updates at first. Then we'll build in new and better ways to talk to you about your ideas - when we're reviewing them, or implementing them or when we decide we just can't do anything with them. We'll always be honest. We can promise we're all going to do our best. That means listening closely, talking openly about the ideas that you've shared. And trying our hardest to make it happen.
These behaviors are a good example of the formula that drives social media: we > me. Most corporate decisions are based on feedback in a conference room of 10 like minded executives, or off the results of 50 people in focus groups. Social media exposes companies to ideas -- good and bad -- from a much wider cross-section of people and perspectives, helping to break the protective bubble that tends to insulate companies from their customers.