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:

  1. If we believe that this is the way millennials prefer to work then it’s inevitable.
  2. If knowledge is your product then tapping into the brainpower of all your people surely gives you an edge.
  3. 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?

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2 Comments

  1. I read your posting here with delight because it embraces something fundamentally critical in the uptake of new innovations – corporate culture. However, I might tweak this great model a little – I think leadership is where it all starts, and then having a creative ‘climate’. (The vibe in the space to embrace new-ness). Cultures take longer to transform, so the good news is that if you can get some senior leadership on board, that will probably affect the company’s climate, and as people become believers, the culture will evolve if the right structures are put in place.
    I do a lot of work with organizations in the areas leadership, creative climate and cultures of innovative so that they take on the affective skills and behaviours to be early adoptors, change leaders, and ultimately more creative and innovative themselves.
    What is being identified here is that ‘gap’ which exists in so many businesses. They say they need to innovate, the senior leaders and the CEO are shouting it from the roof tops – like somehow it’s a switch that can be turned on like that – ta da! When in fact, it’s an attitude, a way of being, a possibility to live into to, and an exciting future to embrace. It seems our current economic climate has turned many companies into risk avoiders, cost cutters, and ambiguity avoiders. It could seem like a plausible strategy, however it won’t build greatness. Time to shake it up indeed!

  2. @marysia Thanks for your comments. You make a very good point about courageous leadership being the inspiration for change and its true that the model could easily be changed to reflect that. Unfortunately, I have seen great leaders run into that immovable object known as corporate culture and fail to make even the slightest dent in it. Perhaps they weren’t as great as I thought they were:)

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