Tuesday, 13 March 2007

Spotting the Emperor's new clothes?

There are lots of conversations going on right now about Enterprise 2.0, but how much is just wistful thinking? In a recent post of mine, straight shooter Matt Moore challenged the hype by commenting:

"I have yet to hear of it actually [flattening and decentralising] in most organisations. It provides opportunities for that to happen but only to the extent senior management encourage this or at least do not actively prevent it."

Earlier Ross Dawson had also challenged Euan Semple about his adoption "philosophy" vs that of Andrew McAfee; Ross puts forward a view similar to the issues raised by Matt:

"I count myself as a true believer in Enterprise 2.0, but I’ve seen enough of organizations to know that the status quo has enormous power, and making good changes happen is never easy. In particular, unstructured implementation of social media tools in organizations will yield only a fraction of the value of a planned one. Yes I believe in emergence, but leadership is required to create fertile fields."

Later Andrew McAfee chips in, with a valid point, that in some organisations the approach taken by some to simply "plug in a wiki" or use a Web-hosted service isn't an option:

"The only reason I don't completely agree here is that I think Euan is assuming that in this scenario managers and IT departments are not blocking these tools at the firewall --  they're not precluding employees from using these technologies while at work... I've been in many offices where I couldn't check gmail, and it's not hard at all to imagine that many companies will try to keep employees from putting company data beyond the firewall on servers hosted by Socialtext, Zoho, Google, 37 Signals, or any of the other collaboration service providers."

Meanwhile, Bill Ives shares a new Enterprise 2.0 success story on the FASTForward blog and Dion Hinchcliffe suggests the following:

"What's a likely sweet spot for applying Enterprise 2.0 inside the firewall?  Keeping adoption of your preferred tools simple within the complex landscape of your organization so users won't prefer theirs; flatten your network as much as you can, open your systems using simple, open standards, and push the tools out fast (the network effect is pronounced with these tools so speed does matter).  Make Enterprise 2.0 as simple as humanely possible for your organization in this framework, but no simpler. "

So who is right? Well, who said there had to be a right answer? Perhaps the answer is all of the above.


  1. My favourite Drucker quote seems apt.

    "In a knowledge economy there are no such things as conscripts - there are only volunteers. The trouble is we have trained our managers to manage conscripts"

  2. Anonymous8:21 am

    Euan - I happen to agree with that quote.

    The point I would add is that in Western societies most people do not volunteer to join the army.

    And at the moment, most people do not use blogs or wikis in organisations. Most internet users do not tag other people's content on the internet.

    I am not making an argument for conscription - what I am saying is don't expect your army to have more than a minority of die-hards in it.

  3. Anonymous5:50 pm

    Thinking about this further, I am reminded of the quote (which may or may not have come from William Gibson) "That the future is here, it's just unevenly distributed" -i.e. lumpy.

    E2.0 use is lumpy. Across organisations & within organisations. If that is accepted & understood then there's no problem.

    But how many organisations like "lumpy"? Are they willing to live with it? Do they have a choice?

  4. Reminds me of one of my favourite quotes:

    "America has more intelligent people in it than any other country - it just that they are further apart"


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