Leveraging unexpected uses (of Twitter), more proof

Well, just got another proof for the benefits of social media serendipity and being well-networked. Right after posting the TED talk by Evan Williams (co-founder of Twitter) on my Business Model Innovation blog (posted it there because I deemed it more relevant from an innovation management perspective than from an Enterprise collaboration perspective) I did see this tweet by Ross Mayfield of Socialtext and another one retweeting a comment by Clay Shirky to an observation and warning Ross just posted. Sounds more complex than it is in fact. Quoting Ross comment on his very own post here is just that, a nice little addition to my BMID post on serendipity which will show up over there via Trackback, yes, I said it pays to be networked).

@replies were invented by users of twitter as a convention to address a tweet to someone. Then some 3rd party clients like Twhirl implemented them, and then Twitter did. They are valuable ways of stringing together Tweets into a conversation. When someone @replies your username on twitter, you see their message in your replies tab. The problem is that anyone or anything can do so, so you may have a ShamWow message in your face.

Now, I am not going to mourn the loss of Twitter (not on a day on which I have crossed the treshold of 1000 followers, yesyesyes). But balancing spam and keeping those very welcome serendipitious effects is what we need to achieve indeed. I for one am not willing to give up on Twitter, even when I know this situation too. And this reminds us how lucky we are in our nice little corporate settings, no wiki vandals, no spammers on the microblogs … yes, the good life.

Upcoming: Enterprise 2.0 events at CeBIT 2009 (come and share your views)

It’s that time of the year again – CeBIT 09 is just around the corner and it’s high time to collect and prepare plans and places to be. I will focus here on stuff with an Enterprise 2.0 focus and/or events I am involved with or am looking forward to. Björn has done a more complete overview here, add this to the information pages for the Open Source arena and especially the Enterprise 2.0 / Internet-focused Webciety (check out the program here)

Myself I will arrive on Wednesday, skipping the first day and sadly also the panel on “Social Computing” with Devan Batavia from Jive Software, Jeff Schick from IBM (seen him at the first E20SUMMIT) and Dirk Röhrborn from Communardo. But I will arrive in time for the “5 myths of the Change of Organizations” panel with Clay Shirky on Wednesday morning and later on the “Enterprise Collaboration” panel with people like Joshua Wold from Atlassian.

Thursday I will have my very own space in the Webciety program, presenting the small chunk of the DNAdigital book I contributed to, see the (german only) online version.

n50419902004_5210Friday I will be busy mingling with you, the Enterprise 2.0 community at CeBIT at the E2.0 Meetup on the CeBIT Webciety Area. I am really looking forward to this – let’s get together in the T-Systems Lounge. Besides having a panel discussion with Dion Hinchcliffe, Dr. Frank Schönefeld (T-Systems), Aidan Troy (IBM), Peter Fischer (Microsoft), Craig Hepburn (OpenText) and Sören Stamer (Coremedia) we’ll have enough time to discuss many of E 2.0’s challenges and potentials.

You can expect me to tweet and blog about most of these events, mostly at the community weblog but I am also planning to do some video interviews. Get in contact with me, get into the conversation and share your views of the future of Enterprise 2.0.

Upcoming: Expertensymposium Wiki


Visuals CC-BY Maisonbisson

Der überwältigende Erfolg öffentlicher Wikis hat dazu geführt, dass inzwischen auch zahlreiche Organisationen diese Informations- und Kommunikationssysteme einsetzen. Bislang wissen wir aber nur wenig darüber, unter welchen Bedingungen organisationale Wikis sich etablieren können und welche Konsequenzen dies für Organisationen hat.
In einem von der Volkswagenstiftung geförderten interdisziplinären Forschungsprojekt erkunden Wissenschaftler an der Forschungstelle für Neue Kommunikationsmedien und am Lehrstuhl für Angewandte Informatik in den Kultur-, Geschichts- und Geowissenschaften seit Mai 2007 genau diese Bedingungen und Konsequenzen, die Wikis in Organisationen zu einer erfolgreichen Innovation machen.
Die Ergebnisse dieser Forschung stellen wir am 27. Februar 2009 an der Otto-Friedrich-Universität Bamberg im Rahmen eines Expertensymposiums aus Praktikern und Wissenschaftlern vor.

Und ich bin dabei –  hier das pdf der Ankündigung. Gespannt bin ich vor allem auf die Forschungsergebnisse aus systemtheoretischem Hintergrund und die abgeleiteten 
Praxisempfehlungen. Erste Eindrücke werde ich (gegebenfalls, hängt wie immer von der WLan-/UMTS-Netzabdeckung ab) twittern. Aber nun erst einmal auf den Weg nach Bamberg.

Cognitive Surplus (in the Enterprise)

While writing up some of my thoughts on the newest McKinsey Quarterly article on Web 2.0 in the Enterprise (this post will follow soon) I was tempted to follow some small detours. Namely this one with Clay Shirky, getting interviewed after his keynote at the FASTForward ’09 conference in Las Vegas, talking about

  • The effects of low cost coordination and group action.
  • Where to find the next layer of value when many professions are being disrupted by the Internet
  • The necessary role of low cost experimentation in finding new business models

You can find these and other videos at the FASTForward site (together with the Euan Semple one, that I’ve posted here). What led me there once more is the McKinsey argument that the biggest ROI comes from what Clay calls the “cognitive surplus”, i.e. the underused human potential we have in our  companies and that can be tapped with Web 2.0 participatory tools (yikes, let us not forget 2.0 paradigms, principles and methods in all this discussion, yes?).

So this made me pull up more stuff I’ve posted on Clay before here (Clay Shirky on Cognitive Surplus and on innovation in the digital economy), my review of Here Comes Everybody and here:

Clay Shirky says on CIO Insight that businesses are just beginning to understand the value—and challenges—of social technologies.

Nora Young of CBC Spark show posted audio from a full interview with Clay Shirky. The interview is worth hearing, and touches on some of the topics in his new book (Here Comes Everybody, see also here and here) – such as the pros and cons of social media, new business models online, and how big change comes from human motivation, not shiny new technologies. Download the mp3.

Nora and Clay started off by talking about our “cognitive surplus,” which Clay describes as “all the free thinking time that society has access to… in the brains of its citizens that isn’t getting used for specific tasks.” Think TV watching time, except Clay has some ideas on how you should be/could be spending your surplus.

and especially here:

[…] Well, yes, don’t blame the web intranet when it’s filter failure, yes, the ability to pay attention in the Web 2.0 age is the “work smarter, not harder” version 2.0″

But probably the most interesting thing is what I’ve argued with in The power of networks and pragmatic adoption:

[…] it makes sense to think about social software uses in the enterprise: When technology becomes “boring”, i.e. taken for granted, it has the chance to move into the mainstream of people caring more for business problems and efficient solutions than for tech in itself. Now’s the time for pragmatic minded enterprise 2.0 consultants, rosy times ahead, obviously.

Well, skip the last sentence, that was in April 2008 😉

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Collaboration is the recipe for market-dominating speed and scale

Some days ago I posted David Terrars keynote slides about community building in the Enterprise at the enterprise 2 open blog.

Being the community manager for the E2.0 SUMMIT I am perfectly fine when you click on through and continue there, all the while my posts are spliced into the regular frogpond feed too.

Whatever, I wanted to expand into something David mentioned in his talk – a video of Cisco’s John Chambers and see where it gets me. Interesting hooks make me follow trails (plus I have observed Cisco moves and Chamber’s video already before, see below for some pointers to past posts and there was this neat article about Cisco in Fast Company too) so the tagline “shifting from command and control management to collaboration and teamwork” made me investigate.

Let’s start with the Harvard Business School video of John Chambers David mentions (seen also at Oliver Marks):

[…] he envisions a Web 2.0 premised on collaboration and social networking that will similarly transfigure all business life. Since 2001, he’s been positioning Cisco to catch this massive market transition, and indeed, is “betting the company’s future on it.”

[…] Web 2.0 will also bring “effective collaboration,” by which Chambers means network-enabled visual tools, which will make “working together for a common goal truly possible.” Expect much faster business processes and revved up productivity, says Chambers.

Sounds much like an argument for “improving collaborative performance”, heh? Yes, but democratizing decision making by using Enterprise 2.0 technologies (eating dog food and walking the talk, you know …), pursuing a vision of a more innovative and competitive company, of future work styles – that’s the success story and archetypical vision that keeps me and others in the surrounding Enterprise 2.0 consulting space motivated.

See also this video from a presentation and Q&A he carried out at the MIT Sloan School of Management:

Based on Cisco’s own experience in the past several years, organizations will [need to] completely restructure around these new capabilities. Indeed, he offers up his company as a paradigm of this vision. Once a hierarchical, command and control-based organization, Cisco is now much flatter, a company running “off of social networking groups.” Councils with cross-functional responsibilities suggest and take on many more projects (from emerging markets, to video, and smart grid boards); from one to two major ventures per year, to this year’s 26 launches. The next generation company is “built around the visual.” Cisco employees do non-stop teleconferencing with collaborators around the world. The company hosts 2500 such virtual meetings per week. It also employs Webex, Wikis and blogging to move work along.

With this kind of communication and carefully managed process to match, “operations can be turned on a head,” says Chambers. It’s the recipe for market-dominating speed and scale. Chambers is “loading the pipeline” with projects that assume other companies will want what Cisco has and makes. “If we’re right, we’re developing a huge wave of revenue opportunity.” Perhaps this is one reason why he’s “an optimist on global productivity, global economy and our ability to handle the challenges.”

That’s the thing: Enterprise 2.0 can be a way for speed and scale, both depending on and promoting changed decision making processes (“Web 2.0 changing decision making processes within organizations“):

[…] Chambers emphasized that social networks are changing businesses making them less hierarchical and more network oriented.

[…] decision making can be accelerated (and be more distributed, democratized, deconstructed, diversified, …). In fact, the main change effect is not acceleration (but the change effects in brackets …)

Repeat with me: the main change effect is not accelerationbut we may be tempted to measure this first in our efforts to calculate ROIs.

Moreover, with the Cisco focus on video and teleconferencing I am not convinced, see what I blogged about another speech of Chambers in May 2007, noting that

[…] Intel [is] calling for businesses to increase knowledge worker productivity by implementing Web 2.0 social software but also by fostering mashups and virtual conferencing.

[…] I am reserved whether video is really the killer application among the collaboration tools. Requiring synchronous presence of distributed collaborators is both costly and unnecessary most of the time (think more meetings …) whereas tools for virtual distributed collaboration like wikis are a low-cost approach that can be tailored to the actual needs (think more flexibility and serendipidity …).

So my observation that Cisco might not be much of a role model (and that results may vary …), especially when naively imitating Ciscos approaches:

[…] social networking in the enterprise is not “easy”. One reason is that this is not a technology problem (with some kind of tech answer), but a people problem. Supplementing organizational hierarchies and “command and control” decision structures with free-form collaboration and teamwork approaches needs some serious thinking before “kicking-off these projects”, taking into account that this calls for broad implementation approaches, lead and energized by skillful managers, and more …

Anyway, I ended on a very positive note (that now, in 2009, may finally hit it big time):

[when] we employ freeform social software and enterprise 2.0 concepts we can ease implementation, like when we leverage bottom-up mechanisms that are already in place, and allow for the emergence of usage and networking patterns that reflect and support the actual informal networks that exist in the organization anyway.

Social software may enter the corporate world quite naturally in the end …

What do you think? Have we seen a sort of tipping point now that McKinsey has published yet another piece?

Interview with Euan Semple

While posting Euans profile over at the Enterprise2Open blog I was alerted to this interview with him via the Zemanta sidebar (ah, I love serendipidity, in effect pushing me onto the Fastforward blog and it’s video collection of this year’s conference):

He discusses his effort at the BBC, as director of knowledge management, and since […] to put the emphasis on “connecting people and helping them have conversations with each other [rather] than about helping them search for other people’s badly written, out of date documents.” Euan touches on the sophisticated and subtle ways in which people search, find and use information, the “non-trivial” challenge of getting employees to engage, who’s often purchasing and owning the products that companies are using (and the attendant downside of that), and more.

Discussing measures and concepts for “collaborative performance”

Björn is asking what the Return on Investment of Collaboration is and writes up some neat (and programmatic) questions to systematize the discussion:

1. How to conceptionalize, realize and gain collaborative performance?
→ discussing the value chain of an collaborative enterprise, the economics of sharing, processes of open innovation
2. What are the main drivers for collaborative advantage and efficiency?
→ discussing communications, processes, infrastructure as well as (self-)management
3. What are the key values of a collaborative culture?
→ discussing the key characteristics as open, transparent and decentralized as well as others – and how to realize the cultural change in a multinational environment as we have in a lot of European companies
4. How to introduce and adopt social and collaborative approaches within the company?
→ discussing the steps of adoption especially in the context of multinational companies

Like him I notice that Enterprise 2.0 discussions fall back to the topic of ROI quite often, seen this many times before and again at the Cologne Enterprise 2.0 FORUM. So trying and exploring the subline of the upcoming Enterprise 2.0 SUMMIT (“Improving Collaborative Performance”) with these questions is a good idea. I won’t dive into all of them now, let’s look at number one first and take a first stab at why it’s collaborative performance we’re after.

To me, thinking about the economic measures and dimensions of Enterprise 2.0 is important. That said, I can also say that thinking about ROIs isn’t important for the reasons one might assume at first: It’s much like with “strategic planning” where the actual plans you derive are much less important than the process of planning (and the mental exercises you get when doing it up-front …) in itself. Two points to discuss:

  • Defining and measuring an ROI of collaboration is both easy and hard – getting and measuring numbers is as easy as getting relevant numbers is hard.
  • Thinking about ways to conceptualize ROI holds benefit, more than having an actual ROI definition.


What does this mean? Let’s start with the definition part, Return on Investment that’s the thing. Nice and easy way to calculate a range of possible alternatives and help in deciding on what to do, huh? But that definition is utterly flawed when we’re dealing with social software in the Enterprise. What does I stand for? Investment, i.e. basically all the Euros and Dollars we’re pouring into our Enterprise 2.0 endeavours. But wait, we’re much smarter than this, aren’t we? After all, we know or sense that buying and deploying IT systems (some of those are even open-source to make things even more complicated) is the easy part, and the bigger part is the soft stuff, like e.g. enabling and supporting collaboration. So we may start to add the hours of the people involved in our projects, and continue to count in all the costs that we’re guessing (when they write blog posts or edit wiki pages they don’t do any actual work, huh?), all the time spent collaborating … Yikes, it’s almost as hard to measure the “investment” as measuring the “returns” of social software in the Enterprise is. This is flawed too as this social stuff can exhibit nice benefits in areas that don’t seem to be related, that are too far in the future or that rely on extrapolations of things – things that are moving way too fast. There’s something to learn from neighbouring areas: Measuring improved knowledge retention isn’t easy – the KM guys are pondering this space for more than 20 years – thus, measuring the effects of a more collaborative corporate environment and a knowledge sharing culture that we may get via Enterprise 2.0 can’t be much easier …

Yet there are very good reasons for discussing measures and concepts for “collaborative performance” – we need to do some planning to know what to do, to get a sense for the environment we’re in and where we stand, what to do to progress and what actions to take when we sense that we’re drifting off from our course. And we need to define and point out our successes, if only to bootstrap and fund the little experiments we started off with (did I mention that calculating ROIs is hard when the I is small? Little lightweight pilot projects make it quite hard to calculate reliable numbers …).

Now, in the past I sometimes argued along the lines of “Please forget about ROI calculations, ROC is much more important”, arguing that the “Return on Change” is what we should look for in Enterprise 2.0 (One word as a focal point for change – Collaboration and Cultural change and developing collaboration capabilities). But it doesn’t take you far in the corporate boardroom (nor do other measures like the RoNI – Risk of not Investing that is plagued by overuse – how often have CEOs heard that “now’s the time to act or else”-thing? Business decision makers are wiser than that).

Whatever, the leading question “How to conceptionalize, realize and gain collaborative performance?” is giving us lots of things to discuss. We’ve not even scratched the surface (yes, it may lead us to discuss the value chain of an collaborative enterprise, the economics of sharing, processes of open innovation, …), use cases and “arenas for social software in the enterprise” and different takes on systematization. In the end it’s necessary to do the deep thinking to be prepared when trying to convince people about the benefits of Enterprise 2.0.

(Now onto posting Euan Semple’s expert profile over at the Enterprise2Open blog, later on I will dig into the new McKinsey Quarterly article “Six ways to make Web 2.0 work”. Both deserve a long post too.)