According to the IBM CEO study conducted amongst 1,700 CEOs from 64 countries and 18 sectors, Open CEOs’ identify openness enabled and supported by social media and technologies, as a major influence on their organization and its success. These organizations perform better because they are utilizing the collective intelligence, are more agile, able to act quickly to gain higher profitability and growth.

The research shows that currently only 16 percent of CEOs are using social networks to be more directly involved and connected with their employees, customers and partners. In the next three to five years this figure will increase to 57 percent. Social media are currently the least used means to interact with stakeholders. Within five years they become the number two “engagement” method, closely behind face-to-face interactions as number one.

Forbes reports the following key findings:

  • The study reveals that CEOs are changing the nature of work by adding a powerful dose of openness, transparency and employee empowerment to the command-and-control ethos that has characterized the modern corporation for more than a century.
  • Companies that outperform their peers are 30 percent more likely to identify openness – often characterized by a greater use of social media as a key enabler of collaboration and innovation – as a key influence on their organization.
  • More than half of CEOs (53 percent) are planning to use technology to facilitate greater partnering and collaboration with outside organizations, while 52 percent are shifting their attention to promoting great internal collaboration.
  • Championing collaborative innovation is not something CEOs are delegating to their HR leaders. According to the study findings, the business executives are interested in leading by example.
  • CEOs regard interpersonal skills of collaboration (75 percent), communication (67 percent), creativity (61 percent) and flexibility (61 percent) as key drivers of employee success to operate in a more complex, interconnected environment.
  • The trend toward greater collaboration extends beyond the corporation to external partnering relationships. Partnering is now at an all-time high. In 2008, slightly more than half of the CEOs IBM interviewed planned to partner extensively. Now, more than two-thirds intend to do so.
  • CEOs are most focused on gaining insights into their customers. Seventy-three percent of CEOs are making significant investments in their organizations’ ability to draw meaningful customer insights from available data.


Face-to-face, the physical contact, creates and maintains trust on a small scale, but is the most effective. Social networks are cost-effective technologies that expand wider transparency and trust, both inside and outside the organization. They drive sharing, accountability and loyalty, and because the interviewed CEOs like to lead by example, trust is broadened effectively.

Market-driven organization

Openness and collaboration with the various stakeholder groups support the realisation of a market-driven organization. CEOs said that they most focus on customer insights and significant investments are made in order to develop capabilities. Social media strengthen the intangible assets, which determine the organization’s  value for more than 75 percent. The ability to extract insights, integrate collaboration tools, but also the soft skills mentioned in the key findings are all part of the intangible capitals.
Not only customer insights are of importance, involvement and understanding of all stakeholder groups align with a best practice from BI, namely the hybrid approach: use different types of conversations (from facts, opinions, unmet needs to rumors) and different stakeholders to synthesize and derive decisions and actions from them, iteratively. This iteration directs and validates planning, goals and so forth.

Collaboration to the outside is increasingly taken into account, how do you think this will affect organizational structures?

What investments do you see as key for an effective integration of social media and their data?

By Gianluigi Cuccureddu

About the author:

Gianluigi CuccuredduGianluigi Cuccureddu, contributing editor, is an experienced writer specializing in innovation, open business, new media and marketing. He is Managing Partner of the 90:10 Group, a global Open Business consultancy. They help clients leverage social media as business accelerators to generate faster, better and cheaper business output. Social media integration is the new secret ingredient to achieve sustainable competitive advantage in delighting the clients’ customers while continuously driving their cost down.