Sunday 4 February 2007

Not Upgradable: What Enterprise 2.0 isn't

In the search for case studies of Enterprise 2.0 in practice I've seen examples of organisations blogging or using wikis put forward. However, in my grey area test I try to look beyond the simple application of information technology in the form "blogs" and "wikis" for actual evidence of the existence of social interaction, hyperlinked conversations and community. This is important because - as I emphasised at my presentation in Canberra last year - if Enterprise 2.0 is going to work, we need to tap into the long-tail inside the organisation.

Another way of looking at this grey area is to consider the difference between the "Wisdom" and "Dumbness" of the Crowds as outlined on the Creating Passionate Users blog:

"True wisdom isn't captured from a crowd.

At least not when the crowd is acting as a single entity. Clearly there IS wisdom in the many as long as you don't "poison" the crowd by forcing them to agree (voting doesn't mean agreeing). According to Surowiecki [author of Wisdom of the Crowds], even just sharing too much of your own specialized knowledge with others in the group is enough to taint the wisdom and dumb-down the group.

It's the sharp edges, gaps, and differences in individual knowledge that make the wisdom of crowds work, yet the trendy (and misinterpreted) vision of Web 2.0 is just the opposite--get us all collborating and communicating and conversing all together as one big happy collborating, communicating, conversing thing until our individual differences become superficial."

Euan Semple also makes a similar point in this comment to a post on the Wirearchy blog:

"It is one of the challenges of doing social computing in organisations that you need a big enough crowd for it to work. It is easy for the culture to shrug it off when it is a small group of early adopters but when it gets to the scale we achieved at the BBC it is harder to ignore.
The crowd also works better the more diverse it is. The checks and balances that underly the principle rely on diversity and if you have spent all your time discouraging dissent and homogenizing your workforce you'll get the same old results. The real gold dust is in difference, dissent and debate. Surfacing things you didn't know, dealing with the things you'd rather not and connecting people you've kept apart.

This reminds me of an old knowledge management joke about communities of practice and experts: You can't have a community of practice of one. So, what (from a technology perspective) Enterprise 2.0 isn't:

  • Just installing open-source blogging, wiki, RSS and tagging software because its cheaper than other commercial collaborative or content management systems;
  • Having the CEO write the only internal blog, even if they do it with "authentic voice";
  • The IT department install a wiki to assist them with better managing their own help materials, but they won't let anyone else in the organisation contribute to it or even install their own ("it's against company IT policy"); or
  • Using Web 2.0 software to create RSS feeds that just link people to traditional read-only content.

In summary - it is more than creating a read/write intranet, it has to be networked in a way that lets us tap into the internal wisdom of the crowds. On its own, all the open-source social software software in the world will not upgrade your organisation to Enterprise 2.0.

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