E2.0 evangelists : the Revolutionaries and the Evolutionaries

This is a question I love to ask in the Enterprise 2.0 interviews :

Broadly speaking, one can say that there are 2 types of Enterprise 2.0 activists. The revolutionaries and evolutionaries. The formers believe that collaborative platforms are disruptive technology that will deeply change the organisations. The latter think this is an incremental evolution that will just fill up some communication holes that are not covered in organisation 1.0. Where would you stand ?

Andrew McAfee talks about new way of doing business in his Enterprise 2.0 book, of disruptive technologies in his PARC talk but still reckons that this is not such a big deal. We can see here that evangelists position is not very comfortable.

On one hand going towards the revolution paradigm risks scaring executives out of it. On the other, minimizing the disruptive nature on Enterprise 2.0 may slow knwoledge workers buy-in and adoption as it may curb their enthusiasm.

First approach is more of an Executive show-stopper while the second is more of a knowledge worker tue-l’amour (desire killer) and adoption obstacle. What’s best ?

Funnily enough, two of the main Enterprise 2.0 figures posted completely opposed post on the topic this week : Oscar Berg on one end and Bertrand Duperrin on the opposite. The former regrets Our Tendency to think and talk in terms of efficiency while the latter is pleased with the end of social washing in his Enterprise 2.0 Forum wrap up.

The Revolutionaries

Oscar’s post is quite telling. It starts from Susan Scrupski blog post Enterprise 2.0: The Next Narrative and the themes to be addressed in the cases study the 2.0 Adoption Council is currently working on.

Together with Denis Howlett (the official Enterprise 2.0 referee) Oscar regrets that most of these themes are only efficiency driven and bring nothing new to the enterprise plate.

Oscar quotes the quite brilliant Maslow’s Hierarchy of Enterprise 2.0 ROI by Hutch Carpenter and insists on the need of expanding the scale of benefits beyond mere ROI when evangelizing Enterprise 2.0.

The conclusion says it all :

I think that all us in the Enterprise 2.0 space need to realize that we are all – like it or not – under heavy influence of Taylor, Deming etc, and the dominating management paradigm that focuses almost entirely on efficiency. We need to listen to Dennis Howlett when he blows the whistle, and do our best at trying to adjust the balance so that we don’t get stuck in the efficiency corner with Enterprise 2.0. I personally believe that the greatest potential business benefits from Enterprise 2.0 lies in doing things that weren’t possible to do before social software.

The Evolutionaries

Bertrand’s post lie at the completely opposite end.

I’m fed up with the usual 40 min “show flat” presentations which conclusion is “it’s really awesome but I can’t do this in my company” and where we have the vague impression that instead of getting answers to our problems we’re being sold a little piece of dream that comes with a big piece of software. In brief, attendees leave with shining stars in they eyes but realize, when the time to wake up comes, that it does not help them to achieve anything.

I tend to agree with Bertrand in the sense that we need to get the job done. In the Enterprise 2.0 Forum Workshop that happened on the Wednesday afternoon, the day before the use case keynotes, Bertrand insisted on the specific french cultural issue with Enterprise 2.0. In all fairness, he didn’t really need to insist, I’m convinced.

Anyway, in such a rational and individualist culture as french one, it is just scoring an own goal to mention things like social, dreams, utopian values when trying to sell Enterprise 2.0 solution. Bertrand knows, he’s been in the business for many years and he does know how it works here.

From this perspective, he admitted that being an Enterprise 2.0 consultant in France is far more touchy and complicated that it may be in such cultures as US or UK. As a result, as a pragmatist, he is a strong advocate of incremental evolution.

(Still, I was very pleased to notice that the only book that has been mentioned during the discussions after the keynotes has been The Cluetrain Manifesto, a quite revolutionary one).

Heavy Mentalery

I think the reason why we’re focussing on Taylor or Demings values when trying to sell Enterprise 2.0, is to smooth the disruptive nature of E20 not to scare executives out of it.

The unique nature of collaborative platforms and what you can achieve with them is quite challenging to envision if you’re not familiar with it.

It will naturally emerged as the tools/approach is deployed. The culture will naturally evolves as a result of it.

But if you want executive support to start such a project in the company I guess that the best way is to talk about current problems, how E20 can solve them and the business value it will bring to the company.

Starting with cultural issues, disruptive technologies, transformation of the enterprise may work with some but not with the vast majority of executives. And will most likely not work in France, alleged home of the revolution, funnily enough – hence Bertrand’s position.

I leave the conclusion to Clay Shirky :

“A revolution doesn’t happen when society adopts new tools, it happens when society adopts new behaviors”

So how about you ? Are you a revolutionary or an evolutionary ?

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One Response to “E2.0 evangelists : the Revolutionaries and the Evolutionaries”

  1. Priyanka D says:

    I think the web 2.0 collaboration tools serve both purposes. Often they can be used in a very unique manner, thus bringing a very new and disruptive opportunity to companies. Most of the time however it is filling holes that are there.
    So depends on the usage.
    My recent post FreshBooks Integration Bug Fix

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