maandag 12 november 2007

2.0 in the Enterprise vs Enterprise 2.0

2.0 is everywhere these days. It's not a thing reserved for early adopters anymore.  It's found its way into politics, the media, marketing and (no surprise) the enterprise. The enterprise, Did it really? Let's take a sidestep first and explore some basics about communication.

How we communicate

Communication as found on wikipedia:
"Communication is a process that allows organisms to exchange information by several methods. Communication requires that all parties understand a common language that is exchanged with each other. Exchange requires feedback. The word communication is also used in the context where little or no feedback is expected such as broadcasting, or where the feedback may be delayed as the sender or receiver use different methods, technologies, timing and means for feedback."

Let's just focus on the key ideas I conveniently underlined.

Exchange requires feedback
I'd like to rephrase this for the sake of this post to: Thinking requires feedback. Strictly speaking, exchange is not necessary as one-way traffic exists. We all know the typical all-hands meetings where our beloved CEO, CIO, CTO, CFO and whatever CxO we could find comes to tell us how we are doing. It's a form of communication where there is very little feedback generally. You are informed of certain events and general status. It does not require a lot of activity from your side and certainly not a lot of thinking. Now when it comes to thinking, even when doing it all alone, your inner self will use language to help your other inner self (or inner selves) understand the problem and you'll try to describe it. Writing it down, talking it through with others (in or outside your head), ... they all require a common platform...a common language.

Probably the single most important thing I know. Language is your gate to the world and is probably worth an entire weblog discussing it.  The thing is, if you can name something there is a link formed in your brain that allows you to think about it. Arguably the single most important thing about language: Language facilitates thinking.  

If Language is your gate to the world, than information is what is behind the gate. There's literally thousands of information units generated this very moment. And they are all out there, for you to grab, as long as you know what gate to go through.

Let's now have a look at communication in a 2.0 environment.

Communication 2.0

We've spent ages defining language, getting new words and getting our brain to link up everything so we can think about stuff. With great results, no doubt. But exactly what have we been investing in?

As stated above we invested in a lot of words, forming a language. And that language facilitates thinking and we have a lot of information out there. So seems like we did a good thing, we invested in the 3 key concepts. Great job! Go humans!

And yet, there's something missing. Communication amongst peers does not stop because of language, nor does it stop because of information. It's hampered by the feedback part.

Just keep your attention span a bit longer on this article and follow me: you and your colleagues sitting in a meeting room, facing the same problem. There may be 4 of you using language and giving each other feedback on bits of information that could add up to a solution to your problem. Great. There's 4, no doubt brilliant, minds in that room trying to figure out what the hell is going on. Now imagine you would do that with every engineer in your company (assuming you don't have a 4 engineers company). And even better, let's take if full scale 2.0. Imagine solving this problem with every mind on the planet that knows this language. Wouldn't that be something worth investing in? Welcome to 2.0.

Enterprise 2.0?

So there are some tools out there that facilitate communication 2.0. Think about wikis, sharepoint, blogs, ... . Which is easy to set up in your enterprise. So here we are than. We all see the benefit of communication 2.0, we have a central wiki page to capture and discuss our issues and to keep others in the loop and allow them to give an opinion. Enterprise 2.0? I, for one, disagree. You introduced 2.0 in your enterprise, but you're not at Enterprise 2.0.

Enterprise 2.0 is not having the tools in place. Enterprise 2.0 requires an upgrade from Employee 1.x to Employee 2.0. It requires every last one of them (or at least "the critical mass") to actively participate in your company. It requires them to invest time in a philosophy, to maybe pick up the pace on some language from another department. And above requires them to think!

Transparency, open communication, information sharing, collaborative thinking, ... to me they're more than buzzword compliancy for the execs in their speech. They are the next evolution for communication, for better thinking.