If Philip Sheldrake‘s eBook, Attenzi — A Social Business Story, were a paperback novel, it would be a slender tome, perhaps similar to Who Moved My Cheese. Like the legendary Spencer Johnson fable on change, Attenzi uses a fictional story to make a factual point. In this case, that social business (not just social media) is a revolution that should change how businesses sell, operate and succeed.
Sheldrake constructs the book almost as a diary, with Attenzi CEO Eli Appel as the narrator. Appel talks about taking the reins as leader, about the team and its strengths and weaknesses, and about his own fears and misgivings as he embraces social business. Attenzi is a kitchen appliance maker, a brand once dominant in the high-end sector that had started to slip. Social represents an opportunity not to merely sell through a new channel, but to recast the relationships between Attenzi and its customers and other constituents.
In the process, Appel and his team learn what’s right and wrong with the company, how it stayed on its path in the face of a changing marketplace, and how a lack of innovation was threatening the firm. Readers follow a set of appealing characters through the story, and arrive at a happy ending (albeit predictably) .
Aside from a couple of preachy, awkward discussions as the shades fall from the characters’ eyes, it’s a solid work that has a lot to say about perception of change, resistance to it, and the experimental nature of innovation when it embraces the transparent, social, customer-up style of modern business.
It’s really hard to write dialogue for a business context. I’ve written two short plays for a client, and it’s a real challenge to include the insider language (whilst avoiding jargon where possible) and drive toward the points you’re trying to make. Sheldrake succeeds substantially; as I say, there are a couple of times where the two-person dialogue stretches credibility as natural speech, but that’s a miniature cavil for certain.
Appel (the Attenzi CEO) strikes a good balance between pushing for change and evaluating what has and hasn’t worked. The leadership team doesn’t reflexively dismiss him (apparently not even privately; that would make for a good subplot in an expanded edition of the book). Attenzi doesn’t have to deal with a crippling crisis in the midst of the renaissance.
I enjoyed the book because of its simple and even idealistic view that business can change by being less closed, less secretive. I liked that social wasn’t just media, just another extension of the marketing mix, beholden to the world of increasing impressions and required conversion. Social for me is broader than that, the embodiment of what’s become my axiom and watchcry: “All marketing is communication, but not all communication is marketing.”
Attenzi makes that point, creatively, succinctly. Kudos, Mr. Sheldrake.
Now, go read the book and tell me what you think.