Today’s blog post is actually a reflection I started writing about yesterday already for which I still don’t have a good, final answer I would feel comfortable with; and perhaps I never will; but more often than not it’s keeping my mind busy somewhat trying to figure out whether it would even need to be answered at all in the first place or not. Or whether I would feel comfortable with it by and large altogether. So I thought I would drop a few thoughts around that idea and see where it would take me…
Most of you folks know that I have been working as a Social Computing evangelist at IBM full time for the last two and a half years now and still going strong; before I was doing plenty of Knowledge Management, Collaboration and Community Building and social software evangelism was an additional activity coming out mostly out of my own private time. During all of this time I have been thinking about my role as a technology evangelist, specially in the area of Social Software, and its impact within the corporate world. And how the change towards a new, more social, democratised, humanised, non-hierarchical, networked (A la wirearchy as Jon Husband would say), community based Enterprise can’t come about fast enough!
Yet, it’s not happening! It wasn’t happening 6 years ago, when the corporate world was starting to pay attention to social software in the Web 2.0 consumer space; it wasn’t happening when Andy McAfee coined the term Enterprise 2.0 in 2006 and it is not happening either in 2009 when plenty of businesses are starting to invest rather heavily in their own Enterprise 2.0 efforts (And I am not just talking about money here, by the way, in case you are wondering … ).
So, perhaps it won’t be happening. Perhaps that change we are all anxiously anticipating (And working really hard for), specially those folks who identify themselves as 2.0 evangelists, is not meant to take place at all. At least, in our time! Maybe we are just planting the seed for that change to take place in 20, 30 or 50 years from now! Maybe we are all just trust agents preparing the way for a change we won’t see eventually taking place, nor our kids, nor our grand-children.
Now, would you be comfortable with that thought? Knowing that you won’t see all of that daily hard work as an evangelist coming through that very soon? That perhaps two or three generations will need to pass by before we see it become a reality? That maybe this change we are all looking forward to is going to be taking place at a rather lower pace that whatever we could have imagined and that we are just starting to surface perhaps the .001% of its completion and general availability? … … I think I would.
I am starting to be more and more convinced that transformation of the corporate world into a more humane enterprise is not going to take place in my working lifetime. Yes, basically, I won’t see it. And, probably that means you won’t either. And although you would think that it’s rather worrying, I actually think that it may not be. At least, the etymological meaning of an evangelist will prove to be rather accurate (If you look into other evangelists in our recent past…).
So why am I pondering about all this, you may be wondering, right? Well, like I said at the beginning of this blog post, I have been thinking about this for a while now as something I have been witnessing all along. How even despite all of the goodness behind Enterprise 2.0, things are moving rather slow. Perhaps too slow. In hundreds, if not thousands of businesses, it’s not even part of a conversation yet, on whether they would need to pay attention to it or not. Yes, there are several thousand businesses out there still thinking along those lines! You even may be reading this blog post at your home computer or mobile device because your company may have even blocked access to social software tools. I know how this very same blog is actually blocked in several countries out there.
I know and realise that this may come through as a relatively negative blog post, and by all means it is not meant to be. It’s just a reflection that perhaps all (technology) evangelists should start realising, and come to terms, with the fact that the change towards a World 2.0 that we are all anticipating may not be coming through that quickly. And that we may need to decide whether we are comfortable with that situation or not. And what would we do if we don’t. My good friend, and evangelist (If I may dare use that word, not sure whether he would consider himself as one, but, to me, he is), Euan Semple nailed it earlier on in an interview he did with Dennis Howlett (Which you can read more on over here & here) where he gets to describe how it may well take up to 50 years for this 2.0 general transformation to take place, before we can say that it has truly transformed not just how we work, but also how we live, transcending both our personal and work related lives.
A worth while going through interview for sure with plenty of golden nuggets, but that one in particular struck me as rather revealing, again, on that role of a social computing evangelist that nowadays can’t see this work coming through fast enough. To top it off, another good friend, David Tebbutt, posted a very thought-provoking and revealing article under "Evangelist: beware" that I would also recommend everyone out there to check out. In it you will find precious little gems, like this one, as his final conclusion:
"The answer has to be to filter them as quickly as possible. Find out who pays for their evangelism in money or in other ways. Ask them what alternatives they know about in detail. And get them to tell you what the long term implications of their advocacy are likely to be. Some will slink away from the interrogation. Some will bluster, so you can take your leave of them. Those that will remain probably have a good and well thought out story to tell" (Emphasis mine)
You see? This is now when that thought I have been pondering about is starting to take shape. And eventually comes around as well with a superb tweet that David Terrar shared a few hours back quoting Euan again: "@euan on being evangelical – "I don’t want them to think like I think, I just want them to think"".
And that’s why I am continuing to think that perhaps our role as social computing evangelists is not so much to provoke that corporate change and transformation, but eventually to provoke a much more profound and significant change on how we operate and behave as human beings towards other human beings. And I can certainly see decades going by before we all start getting a sense we are heading somewhere. After all, it’s all about a continuous learning path on being better at what we do, and who we are, and most of the times it’s going to take us quite a long time to try to absorb and apply such drastic change, not only for ourselves, but also for others… I guess I will ask my grand-kids one day whether we were successful or not…
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