Enterprise 2.0 as a corporate culture catalyst

One in a million

I’m catching up on my feeds and I just had a chance to read Dion Hinchecliffe’s Enterprise 2.0 as a corporate culture catalyst and I was reminded of something I emailed to a colleague a few weeks ago regarding the assimilation of Web 2.0 tools and platforms into organizations” What is an organization if not the sum of its parts; and at what point in history can we say that Organizations are more a sum of their parts than right now?”

It was Dion’s uncomplicated evaluation that Web 2.0 applications are “…often designed explicitly for the consumer audience and are missing vital “enterprise context” such as integration with security platforms, enterprise search engines, Intranet resources such as portal engines, and so on.” that seemed to match my thinking right now on the same subject stride for stride

The last two months for me and colleagues have been an evolving discussion of Web 2.0, Enterprise 2.0, Macro-Communities, Macronomics, The Era of Collaboration, Wikinomics, open-source information, peer-to-peer platforms, Prosumers, Social Media, The Conversation Economy, The New Economy, The New Econo-Me, The New Ecomo-We, The You Economy and the list is grows every time someone comes up with another amusing name. What we’re talking about is the power, the influence, the engagement, the value and the importance of the individual within the group whether that group is organizational or global.

With the speed of change today it’s unreasonable to think that a single leader or even a core of leaders within an organization could react, process this change, adapt and decision-make while preparing for the unknowable, the next change, which very likely is occurring while they are handling the first change.

The voices and the opinions of individuals at every level of an organization need to be valued equally. Combine that with the speed of change, social media and the need to recognize opportunities and not only is leadership needed at every level of an organization, but it already exists.

Enterprise 2.0 apps that address business needs will be critical to flatten the hierarchies, create leaders at every level within organizations and tap individual potential because:

1. You don’t have to be there to be there anymore
2. The present no longer happens in the present
3. Once we enter the conversation we can only control our portion of it

Enterprise and industry have left the information age and entered the age of conversation, collaboration, interaction, immersion and inclusion. Truly the answer to the question, “What difference can one person make?” This is the Butterfly Effect for social media and this fluttering can cause ripples half-way around the world or monsoons within an organization. I say this because organizations who try to survive with the trickle-down, linear, hierarchical approach to business in the 21st century will not survive.

The organizations that can effectively add enterprise context to this and make it work successfully for them will be able to develop a sustainable competitive advantage.

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Web 2.0 is People!

200px-soylent_green_cover.jpg

In principle I agree with Chris Anderson’s blog about The Awesome Power of Spare Cycles although his incidental analogy of Web 2.0 principles and applications to Soylent Green caused me to stop reading for a moment to consider what it was he was intentionally or unintentionally saying.

In the film, Charlton Heston discovers that Soylent Green, a subsidized food ration, is composed of the recycled bodies of people who participated in a government-sponsored euthanasia program aimed at reducing overpopulation. The film ends with Charlton Heston bellowing his now culturally infamous revelation, “Soylent Green is People!”

Taken at face value, the reference was probably nothing more than pop culture throw away line in an otherwise perceptive analysis of untapped potential and energy in organizations. The quintessential message though in the film (and the book by Harry Harrison titled Make Room! Make Room! ) was that the world had become so overpopulated that people were voluntarily committing suicide after which they were being turned into food to feed the remaining populace.

So, Web 2.0 is People! It’s the collaborative global byproduct of Spare Cycles. It’s the tapped previously untapped energy of organizational and individual ennui. My objection is that the examples that Chris uses to support his Spare Cycles theory by and large have little to no business application. MySpace, YouTube, Facebook, and Second Life? Do you organizations want their employees participating in these communities on company time? A cyberstalker? My guess is that regardless of her job responsibilities she would have found the time to stalk the lead singer of Linkin Park. A Sheriff at a regional airport watching a movie on a portable DVD? Mr. Anderson said himself that flights were taking off at the rate of one an hour so if the movie was a result of spare cycles, what should the Sheriff had been doing and how does Web 2.0 apply?

I wouldn’t go so far as to say that the internet could experience an overpopulation problem, but there is a numbers problem that feeds the momentum that web 2.0 continues to gather. For example Technorati claims the Blogosphere has 71 millions blogs yet in reality the number is closer to 15 million. This type of statistical hyperbole is the Soylent Green of Web 2.0. The populace is fed numbers inflated with millions of dead or inactive accounts which in turn drives those not yet participating in web 2.0 to take a nibble to see if they like the taste. Even if they create a MySpace profile, a Twitter account and a Tumbleblog then give up on them, their accounts feed the numbers which feeds the hype which feeds the people.

I know I sound cynical, but in truth I too see the potential in Web 2.0 to create collaborative environments, global communities of co-creation and platforms of engagement, but it’s not enough to say that the presence of Web. 2.0 technologies is the answer to spare cycles and untapped energy and potential. How will it create meaningful work? How will it engage an apathetic workforce? How will it tap the energy that exists in organizations?

For all the potential that Web 2.0 possesses it alone will not end spare cycles while bringing down the walls blocking co-creation to the degree necessary for 21st Century success. Whereas collaborative software and approaches, peer-to-peer platforms and social networking tools can create new spaces to dialogue and co-create, without an inclusive mindset and behaviors, the “old” behaviors and spare cycles will just form in this new technology container.

If we aren’t careful with how we use, promote and encourage the use of Web 2.0 technology organizations may someday be overrun with people finding outlets for their spare cycles by posting their pictures on Flickr, updating their MySpace Profile and watching videos all day on YouTube instead of playing Solitaire. And from these organizations there will echo the collective outcry of, “You Maniacs! You blew it up. Damn You!” Sorry, wrong Charlton Heston film.