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E2.0 : seeking for technology, uncovering humans

November 21, 2011

This post was originally published in French on 01net.Entreprises, under the title E2.0 : cherchez la technologie, trouvez l’humain

Image courtesy of Ari Hekminen (c)2010 under Creative Commons Attribution / Flickr

In 2006, while the corporate world started to scrutinize the web 2.0 march, MIT’s Andrew McAfee coined the concept of “Enterprise 2.0” with the following definition:  “Enterprise 2.0 is the use of emergent social software platforms within companies, or between companies and their partners or customers.” Since then, the topic draws passion from geeks, virtuoso users, communicators, and corporation theorists. A quest for the Holy Grail has started with a series of trials such as proving the ROI, comparing[1]  the best technical solutions and discovering the right adoption strategies.

Alas, even if enthusiasts still burst energy, one can hear complaints on the transformation heaviness and its disappointing results. Of course we know that the “if we build it, they will come” mantra rarely works, but still! … we could almost forget about our journey toward 3.0.

Enterprise 2.0 sponsors now admit that it is not that easy to engage users about new ways of working.  The executive team might at best see the transformation as a necessary evil, at worst as a fad, an expensive and subversive novelty. Enterprise 2.0 might often be considered an additional activity, time consuming, and for which objectives are not that clear. Some users balk at stepping up on subjects beyond their roles & responsibilities. While proximity management is easy to convince, because it keeps in touch, middle management shows little interest. And organizations who are ahead of the adoption curve (platforms installed, users trained) are still waiting for the idea storm, the blooming of collective intelligence and participative innovation. In short they wait for greater performance through collaboration.

But the real obstacle to implement the Enterprise 2.0 is mainly linked to the fact that this transformation is seldom seen as an organizational change. Enterprise 2.0’s original rationale was to make the organization more adaptable and alert. Each and everyone may look out, analyze the society, the market, his environment and then warn, propose, or think for the organization. This agility implies that employees will be encouraged to use their wits, their initiative, their autonomy, of while being guided by a vision and a clear and shared mission.

The crucial component I find in organizations who make the most of Enterprise 2.0 is that they challenge their employees, again and again, thought this channel. They call them up on major, transformative, strategic issues.  See for example the documentary “Google, the thinking factory.” What strikes me is their willingness to let individuals at any level, take over the enterprise destiny; for their brains are roped in and they are given nearly impossible challenges and they like it. It is an extreme example, but other organizations such as IBM, Cisco and many more follow that difficult yet promising path.

Curtis Carlson, president of the Stanford Research Institute[2], said:  “In a world where so many people now have access to education and cheap tools of innovation, innovation that happens from the bottom up tends to be chaotic but smart. Innovation that happens from the top down tends to be orderly but dumb.”  

So, shift: seek for the humans!

[2] Quoted by Thomas L. Friedman, columnist at the New York Times

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