Enterprise 2.0: Andrew McAfee – The State of the Meme

Where are we now? How has Enterprise 2.0 progressed?

How are we doing with awareness?
Lots of awareness about this idea, the mainstream press has covered this, but the high-school and college age children of decision-makers in companies are doing the most to spread the meme, because they are on Facebook, or Wikipedia, and are showing it to their parents who then think it might be useful inside their business.

Ideas that are gaining momentum:
– social software, very different to software companies are used to deploying which are ‘anti-social’, but people are clueing into the idea that we can use tech and software to put people in touch with each other, build network of peers and colleagues. New idea that software is inherently social too, starting to penetrate organisations pretty well.
– network effects, idea we need to get more people onto these tools, and get a lot of participants involved, more good things will happen.
– freeform authoring, once we get more people on social software platforms, our goal should not be to impose structure on their interactions or give them forms to fill in, but should be getting out of the way and let people do what they want. Really don’t know what people want in advance, but don’t know what they know in advance. Get clues from org chart, job description etc, but sources of expertise are widespread. Being freeform, don’t try to predict what they know, where they have energy, are they authors, editors, organisers? A small percentage of people are ‘gardeners’, who like rearranging stuff. We need more of them. But don’t know what people are going to want to do. Wikipedia originally tried a seven step review process, but their insight was to get out of the way and create an egalitarian place.
– metadata, known for years we need metadata, but it used to be about experts defining it. Huge leap forward in Web 2.0, users generate metadata, and produce it almost as a by-product, not sitting down thinking about it. Tags, labels, etc. Do it for our reasons, without imposing structure, and huge multi-dimensional schema for it.
– emergence, used to think that the web was a big mess “the world’s largest library, just that the books are all on the floor”. Structures emerge. Ability to find stuff. Want to encourage this inside companies.

How are we doing with toolkit?
Toolkit is fantastic, and it’s growing all the time. Making good progress on what the specific enterprise needs are with freeform and emerging collaboration. Cambrian explosion going on, explosion of tools. Most won’t work out, or be final answer, just like the species of the Cambrian explosion. Probably not what you want if you’re the CEO of one of these start ups, but we want to see this massive amount of variation then the selection mechanisms kick in. Seeing some great start-ups, but the incumbents have not been slow at all. Pleasantly surprised with the speed that they are rolling out new tools, and leaving behind old way of doing corporate software.

Need to watch out for ease of use, technologists suffer feature creep and add in too many things to do with it. think about the tech that’s compelling – zen-like simplicity, do one or two things that really need to be done. We are not deploying these technologies in a vacuum, there is an incumbent tech which this has to work with. 100% of knowledge workers use email, but if you are proposing a replacement for an incumbent tech then people over-emphasise the benefits of the incumbent tech, and underweight the value of the new tech. Have this challenge with email.

Communicating results
Need case studies – have a few examples that we fall back on. Our store-houses of success stories needs to expand fairly dramatically if we are going to get traction with decision-makers within companies. What will help them make that decision is verifiable case studies. Need to make sure we don’t keep using the same examples over and over. Mustn’t get into the trap of coming up with impressive ROI numbers for these techs, Lots of these ROI numbers quoted are 200% – 300%, which makes people ask, if these are true then we should be throwing money into buying software. Those numbers have to be suspect. Don’t want us to fall into the trap of coming up with glowing numbers.

Can talk about what happened, at the anecdote or case study level. These are very persuasive. Not all companies have a rigid ROI view of investments, but what they want is ways to triangulate the quality of investment.

Need to address this problem, need a repository of information. If and when we do this we need to throw the gates open as widely as possible – should be emergent, widely accessible, and egalitarian. Need to disclose where this information comes from – it’s not automatically suspect when a case study comes from a vendor. Too often, we don’t to basic levels of disclosure, so just need some disclosure rules about who’s putting information up. Wikipedia has an elaborate set of rules, guidelines and policies which have emerged over time. Not sure what they set of ground rules is needed, but we’ll come up with them over time. He volunteers to participate in this effort, what we need is a couple of technologists or vendors to provide environment; perhaps a wiki. Then everyone else throws information up, and structure will emerge over time, as will groundrules, but it would be an invaluable resource for all of us if there’s a repository were we can point decision makers to so they can find valuable information.

This has been an incredibly interesting year. Used to think that the IQ of a crowd was half the IQ of the dumbest person, but his view has shifted 180 degree – we have tools that help the IQ of the crowd be double the IQ of the smartest member. Used to think blogs were teenage diaries, but now thinks it’s the single most important source of information. Used to think that people who got social interactions online was pathetic, but now is amazed at how well you can get to know someone from their blog, and has met some wonderful people, and the strength and non-patheticness of the people online.

We are not anywhere near the end of this. Most he’s seen are people dipping the corporate toe in the water. Good things await those who experiment.