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I am interested in exploring how workplaces are actually changing (not the hype). This blog is my place for thinking out loud about what I see happening - or not happening.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Lurking In The Shadows

I think that Stacey's concept of the legitimate and shadow systems, which I mentioned in my previous post, gives us a clue as to why adoption of Enterprise 2.0 technologies by individuals might differ from their readiness to adopt Web 2.0 technologies.

We need to deal first with terminology. Web 2.0 technologies are characterised by their role in harnessing collective intelligence. Enterprise 2.0 technologies are the same technologies except that they exist behind the enterprise firewall.

Web 2.0 technologies are democratising. Nobody has to seek anyone's permission about which technologies to choose, and when and how they are to be used. People are using them to contribute spontaneously and with alacrity to the creation of user generated content. This is happening to such an extent that corporates and brands are having to change how they engage with customers. Traditional media companies can no longer broadcast to silent, compliant audiences. Richard Sambrooke, Director of BBC's Global news Division is reported as saying that:

"We don't own the news anymore. This is a fundamental realignment of the relationship between large media companies and the public"

Given that people connect and communicate as they see fit to satify their own needs and to suit their own purpose, then the corollary is true. They can withhold their contributions and participation in formal systems that companies invest in to meet strategic business objectives.

Enterprise 2.0 technologies deployed with the intention of harnessing collective intelligence are obviously components of companies' information systems design, part of Stacey's legitimate system. It's no surprise to me then that people might not leap to embrace formal Enterprise 2.0 technologies if imposed or at odds with their values or personal objectives. It also depends on whether or not the culture and reward systems make it worth their while.

Respondents in a recent McKinsey Global Survey said they regard Web 2.0 / Enterprise 2.0 technologies as strategic, and they plan to increase investment in these technologies. A key theme to emerge from the McKinsey research is that adoption and dissemination starts at grassroots, driven by 'inspiration and passion'.

What shadow system dynamics tell us is that people will connect anyway. It is in companies' own interest to create conditions as favourable as possible to encourage user generated collective intelligence for the company's benefit. Treat people well and trust them; without that returns on investment are likely to be jeoparised and potentially destructive conversations will take place outside the firewall.

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