I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to attend my first E2.0 conference in Boston earlier this month. Unfortunately, I missed about half of it because of a cancelled flight and some operations issues that just couldn’t wait. The sessions I was able to attend however, were outstanding. I have long been a proponent of all things Enterprise 2.0 and it was refreshing to be in the company of a group of like-minded people. The conference is defined as “an event focusing on social tools and technologies that help make companies more creative, agile and productive“, and while there was a lot of coverage about some innovative new tools, it was the sessions about adoption that I found particularly interesting. We’ve been trying to introduce the principles of E2.0 for a while now and, even at SMG, where we often can’t believe how lucky we are to do some of the cool things we do, and even with a best-in-class collaboration tool like Clearspace (among others), it’s a constant struggle.
One of the recurring themes of the sessions was that of corporate culture being the one of the main obstacles to successful E2.0 adoption. Perhaps that’s because the E1.0 workplace created an environment where the individual is rewarded more often than the group. Where we’re encouraged to compete for that promotion, or increase, or bonus, or the employee of the month award.
So we keep what we know to ourselves in the belief that our value is inherent in the knowledge we’ve acquired and opinions and ideas are weighted by experience or position on the hierarchy.
And so, the hero-based culture, prevalent in so many organizations, continues to thrive.
But surely, our value is not in what we know, it’s in our ability to learn and innovate, and we do that so much more effectively when we are sharing ideas and pushing each other outside of our respective comfort zones. Back in 2005, Ian Davis said “Web 2.0 is an attitude not a technology“, I would go even further and say that it’s much more than an attitude. It needs to be ingrained in your culture, your mission statement, your everyday processes. It’s what you are, not what you do. It’s the democratization of the enterprise where everyone’s ideas are valued. It’s social media behind the firewall. Where everyone is not only encouraged but expected to participate through the use of the multitude of social tools available. Anybody can install the social tools required to enable Enterprise 2.0 but, to quote Grady Booch, “a fool with a tool is still a fool”. If the tools are not being implemented to support a clear executive commitment to embrace E2.0 then they are guaranteed to fail.
So, if E2.0 means culture change it’s not surprising that there aren’t more companies lining up to try it. But then again, why should they? If companies have been successful with their existing processes up to now and E2.0 appears to be optional, where is the motivation for them to change?
Altruistic platitudes like “empowering your employees” doesn’t do it for me because I think people empower themselves when the right conditions are in place. So is E2.0 optional? I can think of a couple of reasons why it’s not:
- If we believe that this is the way millennials prefer to work then it’s inevitable.
- If knowledge is your product then tapping into the brainpower of all your people surely gives you an edge.
- If your competition is doing it, then they’re probably going to be eating your lunch very soon.
So no, I don’t think E2.0 is about creating a “warm and fuzzy” environment where everyone is happy and comfortable, I think it’s about creating the conditions for becoming lean, innovative and ruthlessly competitive. What do you think?