The Social Enterprise – Nothing New Invented Here!

Gran Canaria - Roque Nublo & Surroundings in the SpringSo, what happens when two of my favourite people, the always fun, insightful and thought-provoking Ulrike Reinhard and the wicked-smart Lee Bryant (Along with both Dominik and Simon Wind), get together in front of a camera in a lovely place and start talking for a bit over 30 minutes around the topic of Enterprise 2.0 and Social Computing? Yes, I know! Only good things would come up from that conversation, right? Well, indeed, in this case, a rather nicely balanced one! Have you watched through Enterprise 2.0: Practical and Traditional? If you haven’t, you should! Today!

I have finally had a chance to go through it myself earlier on this morning and was enjoying it so much that I couldn’t stop taking down, rather furiously, a good number of notes and annotations that I thought would be worth while sharing over here, specially at this point in time, when we seem to have been having lots of great conversations on the topic of Social Networking for Business. I don’t think I would be sharing them as bullets or something, but more perhaps along the lines of highlights, i.e. what really interesting things you are bound to find on that video interview, in case you may not have a chance to view it just yet. Thus here we go:

  1. The Social Enterprise – Nothing New Invented Here!: Yes, indeed, that’s actually one of the main key points from Lee’s interview; essentially how, for centuries, we have been operating AND working through social (and informal) networks till IT departments kicked in a few decades ago and decided to control the masses using factory models, which obviously, as we can see today, haven’t worked out really that well, after all.

    Lee makes a really good point in here trying to re-surface how we used to conduct business in the past and detailing how in today’s 2.0 world we are not really inventing anything. We are just going back to basics once more; that is, work will be carried out around networks and communities, without no longer neglecting our natural way of conducting business, as opposed to the traditional hierarchies and organisational structures.

  2. Over-Engineering of Processes Killed the Enterprise: Now, I realise how Lee didn’t say it in those very same terms, but I do! Indeed, he comes to conclude that if there is anything that Enterprise 2.0 would do to today’s working environment is that it will help force a tremendous "reduction in the reliance on process" and place back the emphasis on "supporting human endeavour, human intelligence and human initiative".

    Which eventually would make the workplace a much more interesting place to work for everyone; much more agile by doing something that we haven’t been very good at over the last few years: reducing significantly our very own internal transaction and coordination costs. Now, if you are still looking for a business case for Social Computing, that, my friends, would be it! As simple and effective as it sounds!

    We do need to stop that addiction for over-engineering our processes and, instead, strike for simplicity; we cannot probably tolerate much longer how former flexible and human-lead processes have given in to bureaucracy resulting in the split of the overall knowledge workforce; causing altogether a much worse problem: political and budget battles abound making us lose focus on the real work that we need to execute on.

    Thus eventually what we would need to do, and this is one of my favourite conclusions from Lee’s interview, is we would need to nurture, facilitate and inspire the creation of a lateral and vertical layer of connective tissue that would enable people to find other people, regardless of where they may well be in the organisation, geography or timezone, to help them collaborate and share their knowledge much more effectively. Well, spot on, don’t you think? That, on its own, is another good solid argument for a business case on why Enterprise 2.0 is worth the time and the effort.

  3. Brands: No, not going to say much more on this one topic, but I would strongly encourage you all to have a look into what Lee has got to say about brands, and specially his point about the value they provide and how they may well be part of the conversation after all … (After we all come to terms with the fact that we have already lost the control of it and things are just fine)

    Interesting insight as well is the one where he comments how the large corporate environment would still have a place. Those large enterprises would still provide plenty of good value, specially with regards to their social mission. Brilliant example that one of Unilever, that got a mention, and their corporate social responsibility.

  4. Social Dynamics: Another rather thought-provoking item that Lee brought up was the one that very few people seem to have noticed so far, but with which I totally agree with 100%: a better relationship between business and IT with plenty more flexibility on a social layer of platforms that would spark applications (And Innovation!!) to flourish, but *always* specific to the business, i.e. in the proper business context.

    Really enjoyed as well his trend of thought on how the corporate world needs to pay plenty more attention towards what’s happening out there on the Internet. That culture of the user experience provided by Web 2.0 surely needs to enter the Enterprise (2.0) world. In fact, I would go even one step further and indicate how we may no longer have a choice anymore, since most knowledge workers have not only gotten rather exposed to it, but they already live it day in day out. Couple of examples? Google, the iPhone, the iPad, etc. They have totally transformed our overall user experience expectations and when entering the workplace we want to have a similar experience altogether. If not, we would move on… to whoever may be listening… That level of empowerment is something we cannot longer neglect, nor ignore, but, if anything, fully embrace.

  5. Customers as a Major Driver for Adoption Inside Companies: WOW! Shocking, don’t you think? Well, actually, Lee refers to knowledge workers closer to the customer as one of the major driver groups for social software adoption. It is those knowledge workers making use of social media outside the company to learn about their customers the ones who will be the major driving force as they would be on a mission to improve both their products, processes and general customer satisfaction.

    You should have a go and listen to what other groups of knowledge workers would be out there, helping accelerate that adoption of social software behind the firewall; you will be surprised about how balanced it all is, specially when combining both a bottom-up (i.e. grassroots) & top-to-bottom approach altogether!

    That new generation of leaders will be leading because they are already helping others become better at what they do; it’s those networks and coalitions of the willing the ones with a new mission to lead the rest of the knowledge workforce; they will consistently provide plenty of signals of how they themselves can help break those traditional organisational structures and the interesting thing there is that it is not something new… Remember the good old days of walking the floor? Well, in this case, it’s a virtual floor, just like we have moved from the local water cooler into the global virtual water cooler!

  6. Innovation, Innovation, Innovation!: At the end of the day that’s what Social Computing is all about, folks! Although innovation for the sake of innovation (i.e. Innovation out of touch with reality) just doesn’t cut it anymore; it’s all about identifying real problems and finding real solutions innovating along the way, which is why both incremental and disruptive innovations have got a place inside the corporate world.

    What was interesting from Lee’s interview in this regard was his commentary about that innovation is starting to leave the corporate space and go where your customers are; more than anything else to make them co-participate from that innovation process in helping develop better products. That’s something I have been mentioning over here as well with regards to the whole concept of co-creation and which, thanks to social software, is taking a new meaning by providing an opportunity for customers and their vendors to interact in the same platform, without intermediaries and hardly any processes in place. It’s just an opportunity to establish an open and direct feedback mechanism that will help set the stage on how we collaborate and share our knowledge across, in the near future, with our customer base. Something that before wasn’t happening and by far!

  7. The Bottom Line of Enterprise 2.0: Coming closer towards the end of interview Ulrike asked Lee what was eventually such bottom line and, while watching and listening to the comments, I just couldn’t help thinking about something I blogged a couple of days ago over at the Hippie 2.0 blog post. Essentially how damaging thinking ahead in quarters (i.e. short term) could well be for the health and well-being of the overall business and its long term strategy by itself. We surely need to move beyond that limited thinking and, instead, think long term. Where would you want your business to be in say 20 to 30 years from now? What would the Future of the Workplace be like? Certainly, thinking in quarters is not going to take us very far with that forward thinking, isn’t it?

    Lee also talked about the real impact of Enterprise 2.0 in one other area that could surely make for a wonderful business case on its own and without much further help: its ability to lower costs on all fields that employ people and which would depend on knowledge work. According to him, and I couldn’t have agreed more with it, we, as businesses, need to continue avoiding commoditization by building deeper relationships with our customers and business partners to provide better products, leaving, time and time again, our very own comfort zone(s) behind.

    Indeed, it’s all about agility, a connected workforce building a strong sense of working better together; it’s all about innovation, about being part of an ecosystem where the co-creation process is the one that regulates how we interact, share our knowledge and collaborate with one another in an efficient and effective manner, not just internally, but also externally with our clients, which is where the conversation is (and should be!).

In short, it’s all about humanising the enterprise. Back again!! Remember, back in the day, how we used to conduct business? We are not re-inventing anything new over here at this point in time. "It’s all about being practical, with a business focus and re-balancing people over process removing bureaucracy out of the equation" [Paraphrasing]. WOW!! Those are, indeed, some very powerful and inspiring words and essentially the key message coming out of Lee’s interview with Ulrike, which is going to give me the perfect segway to introduce the topic for an upcoming blog post I have been working on for a while: How Can Social Networking Survive without Business Processes in the Enterprise.

Intriguing, eh? Well, I have strongly believed for many years that it is possible to do so, and in an upcoming blog post I will share with you all why and, most importantly, how it can be done! In fact, some of the major key points I have highlighted over here from that wonderful interview between Ulrike and Lee will also be part of that upcoming blog entry… Thus stay tuned! Plenty more to come…!

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12 Comments »

  • Jon Husband says:

    Indeed, it’s all about agility, a connected workforce building a strong sense of working better together; it’s all about innovation, about being part of an ecosystem where the co-creation process is the one that regulates how we interact, share our knowledge and collaborate with one another in an efficient and effective manner, not just internally, but also externally with our clients, which is where the conversation is (and should be!).

    Hmmm .. now let me see, where did I put that … ?

    What is it that makes all this potential possible ?

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    • Luis Suarez says:

      Hummm, let me see, Jon… How about Wirearchy? Oh, wait, but that’s nothing new, is it? I mean, it’s been years since you put it all together exactly as described above and how it permeates through the video interview. Ahhh, well, the title seems to be right after all… Nothing new here: let’s move on into implementation, engagement and enjoyment, baby! :-D

      Seriously, many thanks for dropping by and for the great input! It must be rather rewarding to witness how the business world seems to finally be catching up, right? ;-) hehe

      Speak soon!

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  • Jon Husband says:

    Well. yes .. the various bits and pieces seem to be falling into place (so to speak). But I think “we” all saw that as inevitable some time ago, no ?

    I don’t really care what “it” is called, and you are right my friend. Let’s get on with the getting-on-with-it, so as to help make the world(s) we inhabit a better place for both working and living.

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    • Luis Suarez says:

      Yes, I know what you mean, although I would say that the “we” has been a minority till not long along and perhaps we are seeing how more and more knowledge workers are flocking towards what you already saw as inevitable… It’s like coming back home! :-)

      Amen to that follow up wording, Jon! You know what? You would make an excellent hippie 2.0, you know that, right? Fancy joining us sharing some content on that site as we ramp up efforts to get things moving? ;-) hehe

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  • Gordon Rae says:

    It really isn’t appropriate for Lee to blame the IT department for so many things. (And I say that as someone who worked in an IT department developing CICS systems on MVS.) Business has a long history of administrative culture.

    Virtual pub quiz: everybody knows that there was agriculture, then manufacturing, then information technology. But in what year did information processing become the largest part of the workforce in the USA? I’ll come back tomorrow and tell you.

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    • Luis Suarez says:

      Hi Gordon! Thanks for the great comments! Greatly appreciated! I don’t think Lee was blaming entirely IT for the whole “mess” we may be in; I think he was justifying more the fact that there is a huge disconnect between IT and the business, in general. I have seen that far too many times myself with plenty of the customers I get to interact with, as well as inside and it can surely be frustrating sometimes. Now, if IT & business would partner together, instead of engaging in those political fights, I think we would all be much better off, for sure!

      On the pub quiz … hehe … I bet that didn’t happen till the late 90s or something; probably at the same time I started working for my current employer ;-)

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  • Jon Husband says:

    Re: pub quiz … my guess is 1993

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  • Re: pub quiz – I reckon it was a few years ago – 1970?

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  • Gordon Rae says:

    According to Sprague and McNurlin, Information Systems Management in Practice, who cite Porat (1977), the answer is (drum roll) 1957.

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  • Wilson says:

    I believe the “de-socializing” of the work place correlaets with the increase of division of labor and automation. Granted, there’s also a human political dimension by which people tend to self-segregate into “us” and “them,” but I’ll leave that as a chronic issue in that this is an “always-has-been” aspect (that is to say in the historical period, at the very, very least). But primarily, functional silos begat a lack of workplace socialization (as we are using that term, that is) and those functional silos are *NOT* due to coherent process focus but rather to specifically that rise in the division of labor and increased automation which rely on a silo focus (especially/specifically division of labor; I will grant that automation is less of an issue but I include it because historically it has led as well to a view of “point A to point B” linear thinking).

    Automation is not to be confused with the last few decades’ focus on process modeling. And in this context, I take exception with the idea that process focus killed the enterprise (or any such declaration, I realize that was deliberately bolder than to be literally taken). In fact, I would argue that it’s precisely the *LACK* of process focus while automation and division of labor were pursued that has killed the enterprise. Real, holistic process focus takes into account an end-to-end view and necessarily focuses at least at some level on collaboration points needed to break up needlessly linear and time-consuming processes. Now, that said, I recognize that process notation and methodology lack the tools to go deeply into collaboration and are poor at modeling the elements in detail of said collaboration, but that is a matter of a “white space” in how process modeling/methodology illuminates a need for collaboration – it doesn’t do more than identify the need and leaves it to us – and our faulty, siloed organizations – to figure out. In this light the work of HIM (http://missionfacilitators.com/Articles/Organizational%20Development/Articles/Human%20Interactive%20Management.pdf) is of great interest, though it is my view that HIM needs to be developed for a stronger coupling with process modeling rather than away from it.

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  • [...] for business. So much so that we are not starting from scratch altogether; in fact, we are probably not inventing anything new in here, but instead, in this case, we are all now, fully embarked, on a new exciting and unprecedented [...]

  • [...] forward, is starting to become a dangerous reality. For a good number of years you have probably heard me state how Enterprise 2.0 (Now morphed into Social Business) has started already to follow the same path [...]

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