If I Had a Yammer

Why didn’t we come up with Yammer? It’s a Facebook-style social networking tool for the workplace, and Microsoft just purchased it for $1.2 billion. (Guess it’s time to come up with something else Microsoft might buy.)

The New York Times called the purchase “another sign of how consumer technologies that once seemed like toys are reshaping the slower-moving corporate information technology market” (a trend we took note of, in a slightly different context, last week). Yammer, the paper added, “has co-opted many of the basic concepts familiar through Facebook to create a more business-friendly social networking service.”

George Zachary, a Yammer board member, told the Times: “Businesses are inherently social. The handwriting has been on the wall, enterprise is starting to mimic the real world.”

Peter Drucker not only understood that a business is social; he went so far as to stress that it’s a society. “Plant and office are more than just geographic locations,” he wrote in Management: Tasks, Responsibilities, Practices. “They are communities. We speak of the prevailing atmosphere of an office or of a mill. We study their ‘culture.’”

Given this, Drucker believed that there were terrific opportunities for those offering products and services to strengthen community and culture—the way that Yammer does.

Most businesses that have been outstanding successes during the last generation or two, and have grown from corner-store to giant size, have been based on social innovation,” Drucker wrote. Even IBM built its success primarily on “a vision of the organization of information and office work.”

Technology for these businesses was crucial but came second. “They all started out with a new configuration of social elements, a new vision of social opportunities and social needs,” Drucker observed. “Then they created the needed technology.”

How are new social networking tools changing the culture of your business?