May 22 I participated in Enterprise RAVE 2.0 Session 2. Thank you Francois Goisseaux for an opportunity to be challenged by Harvard Business School's Andrew McAfee's questions, Euan Semple''s grounded thinking, and converse with Jim McGee and Jerry Bowles for the first time. The recording of a wide ranging discussion is now available. My highlights included:
- Andrew McAfee talking about Facebook and potential lessons for social workiing within enterprises
- Euan Semple expanding on his "Do Nothing" post describing behind the scenes conversations and politicking to support adoption of social tools within the BBC
- Jim McGee, and Andrew McAfee discussing the "messiness" of wikis, blogs, forums and executives' desire to impose structure
- Jerry Bowles reflecting on the value of "messy vitality over unity".
RAVE participants Michael Clarke and Lee White, in their event blog reports point to the Enterprise 2.0 RAVE conversation I'd like to continue: adapting organizations to the challenges social technologies provide.
"More generally, though, I couldn’t help feeling that the session as a whole shows that there is still something of a gulf between the consumer-driven, bottom-up focus of web 2.0 and the ambitions of the proponents of Enterprise 2.0 to bring about a similar level of change and disruption (a positive word in my lexicon) to the habits of organisations. I do believe that it’s possible to deploy the insights of community driven practice to bring about all manner of change within an organisation but I don’t think that it can be done without a deep understanding of the nature and dynamics of organisations. Still, early days."
and Lee White concluded:
"This thing we are calling Enterprise 2.0 is necessarily messy. It cannot be effectively created/implemented by a controlled, managed process. It has to be emergent. This will be a hard concept to swallow by those that are currently in power."
Andrew McAfee discussing Facebook reminded me of the "Social Life of Information" and Julian Orr's pioneering anthropological study of a high performing team of Xerox technicians it describes (page 99):
"The rep's work is critical to the company's overall purpose and so falls well within the class of value-adding processes. Nonetheless, as Orr found out, the reps might almost be said to succeed despite the company's best intentions. Their success is in good part a triumph of practice over the limits of process."
The technician's success resulted from close collaboration and knowledge sharing (including outside official working hours), and Xerox responded by developing technologies, including two-way radios (the forerunner of Nextel), to support their ability to connect.
In Social Life of Information John Seely Brown and Paul Duguid write (p8):
"The way forward is paradoxically to look not ahead, but to look around."
Looking around I see collaborative technologies have been nudging enterprises for around 4 decades:
- Doug Engelbart's 1968 demonstration debuted the computer mouse and shared screen collaboration.
- Bob Metcalfe invented Ethernet 3.5 decades ago (1972)
- Tim Berners Lee revealed the World Wide Web in 1991
- Ward Cunningham's wiki creation began in 1994
- Pyra Labs debuted Blogger in 1999
- 2003 del.icio.us launched
Yet, as the RAVE conversation indicated and participants Michael Clarke and Lee White confirmed, organizations resist adapting. This is despite a growing body of knowledge about understanding and managing the socially networked organizations that computer network connections enable:
- Mid 1980's studies begin revealing the social nature of Xerox technicians' work
- 1987 Valdis Krebs starts practicing social network analysis in organizations
- 1992 Ronald Burt publishes "Structural Holes: The Social Structure of Competition"
- 1993 David Krackhardt & Jeffrey Hansen's "Informal Networks: The Company Behind the Chart" appears in Harvard Business Review
- 2001 Don Cohen & Larry Prusak release "In Good Company: How Social Capital Makes Organizations Work"
- 2003 Rob Cross & Andrew Parker produce 'The Hidden Power of Social Networks: Understanding How Work Really Gets Done in Organizations"
- 2004 Network Roundtable founded
- 2007 Duncan Watts "Accidental Influentials" number 1 Harvard Business Review "Breakthrough Idea".
- 2007 Patti Anklam publishes "Net Work: A Practical Guide to Creating and Sustaining Networks at Work and in the World"
The RAVE conversation exposed the challenge of social tools to organizations. To me issues around "CONTROL" are key. (Slide 3 in presentation to the OD Network GNY December 2006.) The discussion also set me thinking about the importance of rebuilding management's TRUST in employees to maximize the potential of Web 2.0 tools for organizations. Andrew McAfee's student poll results have me considering the role of INCENTIVES, especiallly in light of lessons from the open source movement and Xerox's early Eureka project learning about the importance of RECOGNITION for encouraging PARTICIPATION.
During the RAVE Jerry Bowles indicated he is seeing an inflection point for the impact of social technologies in organizations. Time will tell but regardless my main take away was thinking people with job titles like organizational "design" or "development" need to pay close attention. If you are not already focused on "network weaving", "organizational network analysis" and understanding "collective intelligence" then it's time to take Euan Semple's counsel from Enterprise 2.0 RAVE Session 1 to "get moving". Otherwise prepare to be made obsolete by smart, Web 2.0 tool empowered employees, seeking forgiveness rather than permission, busily creating value through anthills of innovative activity, and in the process, reinventing your organization around you in ways you can't even imagine.
What have I missed?
What do you see when you look around at your organization and the impact and potential for the latest generation of social working tools?
~ Jenny Ambrozek