Enterprise 2.0 Reflects the Culture

June 18, 2009

Enterprise 2.0

If you think that the enterprise-wide wiki you’ve been pushing to install is going to change the culture of your organization, think again.  That wiki is going to reflect the culture of your organization, not change it.

Enterprise 2.0 holds a lot of promise: Increase collaboration!  Break down stovepipes!  Enable open and transparent communication!  Crowdsource white papers and presentations!  Use wikis to eliminate email!  Cure cancer!

And in some cases, these technologies DO allow organizations to realize these benefits – well, except for maybe the last one, but you get the idea.  But in many of these social media implementations, I’ve come across a lot more people saying, “I have an internal blog but no one reads it,” or “We have a wiki, but no one uses it!”

Why are Enterprise 2.0 implementations of blogs, wikis, or forums not living up to the expectations of the technology?

The primary reason is because social media tools reflect the culture of the organization – they can’t change the culture of the organization by themselves.  If the “social” part of social media doesn’t exist within your organization or is corrupted, all you’re going to end up with is “media” – a blog with no readers or a wiki with no edits.

I recently discussed the challenges of creating a social media culture behind the firewall with several of my colleagues on our internal Yammer network – here are some of the more interesting quotes from that conversation:

On needing a restricted access wiki, even behind the firewall:
“I need a wiki with both ‘internal’ and ‘external’ pages so that I can keep our team-specific items out of sight. The rest of the wiki would be open to engaging others in our work and designed to ‘market’ our capabilities to others.”

On the (often ignored) issue of intellectual property within and organization:
“People spend lots of hard work and man-hours developing a work product. They don’t want someone who ‘has an idea’ to swoop in, use the work, and have them get all the credit and acclaim for it.”

On how social media impacts the corporate rat race:
“For commonly held skill sets, [social media presents a problem because] someone may know enough to be dangerous, but the work someone else does and posts in an open environment would give that person the tools to advance their own careers without crediting those they got the information from.  That’s what I feel is the main reason people fear transparency internally.”

On how people can “steal” your work and use it without asking for it:
“I encourage people to borrow/steal/run off with my work. More often than not, it is difficult to get colleagues to take the first step to deliver/create new intellectual capital.  If borrowing my work is their first step, that’s ok. I’ll borrow from their step 2 or 3.”

Ultimately though, no matter how many pages your wiki has or how fantastic your internal blog is, the technology is going to reflect your organizational culture.  Not the culture you talk about on your website, but the real, honest culture of your organization.

Do you have people who routinely appropriate other people’s work as their own?  It will continue on the wiki.  Do you have people who punish their staff for speaking their mind and taking risks?  Those managers will forbid their staff from blogging.   Employees who regularly go above and beyond to help others?  Those people will be your wiki gardeners, making the wiki run smoothly for everyone else.

If you want to change the culture of your organization, social media tools can be a part of the solution.  But culture is determined by people, not by tools.  Make sure you supplement those tools with a change management strategy that will address the people too.  Consider incentivizing employees to share information and collaborate with each other.  Make information sharing part of their annual review (my team reviews the employee’s contributions to our internal network during their annual assessment debrief).  Reward staff for taking risks.

Enterprise 2.0 tools will always reflect the culture of your organization – for better or worse.  Make sure you give it every chance to succeed and address the people, policies, and processes too.

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About sradick

I'm Vice President, Director of Public Relations at Brunner in Pittsburgh. Find out more about me here (http://steveradick.com/about/).

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  • I try to understand things from the perspective of an alien scientist studying our planet. It just seems so bizarrely ironic that our greatest fear seems to be exploitation from someone else and how it shapes everything about us. It’s obvious why this is the case–we’re best described as creatures designed to outwit and exploit our surroundings (including ourselves.)

    What isn’t clear is why we don’t address that fact. Why we don’t search for that economy and infrastructure which would leave us predisposed to empower and enrich our world rather than exploit it. Why does everyone seem to subconsciously conclude that would be impossible? It only requires redressing the externalities that leave us predisposed to exploit in the first place. We got here honestly, in a world where creatures changed over evolutionary time and simply couldn’t outrun their own impact. That is no longer the case. We can change the world far faster than we can adapt to it.

    The internet is the neurogenesis of a genuine, independent, meta-consciousness. It still seems to be stumbling to find a model for forming useful neurons; the means to add significant value by virtue of the way we interact with each other and the information itself. Yet we still haven’t come to grips with the most fundamental dysfunction of our predicament; that most aspects of our world predispose us to outwit and exploit each other rather than enrich or empower.

    I write this (and do realize this is somewhat off-topic; meta-topic?) only because the internet seems to be the only place we actually might be able to, for example, ensure that the various minds involved in the crystallization of great knowledge are all property credited. And that I honestly believe we’ve unwittingly built a world that is a bit backwards; I see people enjoy what they do for others more than anything else. Just imagine how awesome work would be if the economic rewards matched the emotional ones?

    Google’s WAVE technology seems to be an effort to do this, but I think it is a better model for most organizations that are looking for ways to wring more utility out of their intellectual capital. Especially if it evolves into an encapsulation of entire projects–turning them into data in their own right and promising a quantum leap in our capacity to rapidly deploy extreme competency in response to every challenge.

  • I try to understand things from the perspective of an alien scientist studying our planet. It just seems so bizarrely ironic that our greatest fear seems to be exploitation from someone else and how it shapes everything about us. It’s obvious why this is the case–we’re best described as creatures designed to outwit and exploit our surroundings (including ourselves.)

    What isn’t clear is why we don’t address that fact. Why we don’t search for that economy and infrastructure which would leave us predisposed to empower and enrich our world rather than exploit it. Why does everyone seem to subconsciously conclude that would be impossible? It only requires redressing the externalities that leave us predisposed to exploit in the first place. We got here honestly, in a world where creatures changed over evolutionary time and simply couldn’t outrun their own impact. That is no longer the case. We can change the world far faster than we can adapt to it.

    The internet is the neurogenesis of a genuine, independent, meta-consciousness. It still seems to be stumbling to find a model for forming useful neurons; the means to add significant value by virtue of the way we interact with each other and the information itself. Yet we still haven’t come to grips with the most fundamental dysfunction of our predicament; that most aspects of our world predispose us to outwit and exploit each other rather than enrich or empower.

    I write this (and do realize this is somewhat off-topic; meta-topic?) only because the internet seems to be the only place we actually might be able to, for example, ensure that the various minds involved in the crystallization of great knowledge are all property credited. And that I honestly believe we’ve unwittingly built a world that is a bit backwards; I see people enjoy what they do for others more than anything else. Just imagine how awesome work would be if the economic rewards matched the emotional ones?

    Google’s WAVE technology seems to be an effort to do this, but I think it is a better model for most organizations that are looking for ways to wring more utility out of their intellectual capital. Especially if it evolves into an encapsulation of entire projects–turning them into data in their own right and promising a quantum leap in our capacity to rapidly deploy extreme competency in response to every challenge.

  • Scott, you brought up a lot of interesting and philosophical points but I’ll add on to your first one – I really like the alien analogy. Similarly, I like to ask my social media skeptics this: “What if wikis had been invented first, before there was email?? What if we showed them this picture (http://matwww.ee.tut.fi/~huhtis/koulutus/2009/vy/verkkoyhteisot/kuva/wiki-vs-email.jpg) and asked them to pick which one made the most sense for collaboration?

    The problem with corporate adoption of social media tools and Enterprise 2.0 technology is that it’s usually too focused on deploying the new tools instead of using the tools to help change the processes and the way people work. Enterprise 2.0 isn’t a set of tools or a new technology – it’s a new way of working that is facilitated by the new technology. You can’t use same old processes with new technology.

  • Scott, you brought up a lot of interesting and philosophical points but I’ll add on to your first one – I really like the alien analogy. Similarly, I like to ask my social media skeptics this: “What if wikis had been invented first, before there was email?? What if we showed them this picture (http://matwww.ee.tut.fi/~huhtis/koulutus/2009/vy/verkkoyhteisot/kuva/wiki-vs-email.jpg) and asked them to pick which one made the most sense for collaboration?

    The problem with corporate adoption of social media tools and Enterprise 2.0 technology is that it’s usually too focused on deploying the new tools instead of using the tools to help change the processes and the way people work. Enterprise 2.0 isn’t a set of tools or a new technology – it’s a new way of working that is facilitated by the new technology. You can’t use same old processes with new technology.

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  • Great post. I think the change comes when the organization shows that it is listening and acting on the collaboration that occurs in these social spaces.

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