I was reading a post from James on implementing some Social Networking tools within a large Enterprise, Even more untold perspectives on social networking within large enterprises. It was an interesting post as it reflected, from a different angle, an issue that I have had to deal with recently.
My basic challenge is simple. A company decided that they needed to consolidate their knowledge (their word) and implement ways to both expand and re-purpose their information. I’m thinking Enterprise 2.0=Knowledge Management. I’m thinking cool new technologies. I’m getting all excited.
Then during a requirements session I hear, What is a Wiki?
Generations X and Y
James focuses on the fact that those in the Web 2.0 mindset are more fluid and dynamic. They think laterally and not necessarily hierarchically. As James puts it, the Web is a bottom-up approach while BPM and existing solutions are more top-down. He then spins it as a Generation Y versus the established mentalities around process.
I think James has defined the paradigm problem. Changes like this aren’t instantaneous. The lines around the problem are not just Gen Y based.
[T]hese people will join the workplace as wide-eyed and impressionable new starters, and they’ll do their best to work within the framework that they are given with the tools that are allocated to them. Then, slowly, their own ideas will become part of the way people work, including their favorite tools and technologies.
The Millenials, as Gordon calls the Gen Y crowd, are not going to have the power or the authority to do much, at first. Oh, they will find some companies that will let them work with those tools. They can also form startups, but a majority of them will have to learn the old ways before they can change them.
Next comes Generation X, my generation. We were a bunch of disgruntled, disrespecting people with no focus or direction. That isn’t true anymore. Oh, there are holdouts, but the ones that have adapted are the ones leading. As a whole, the technical GenXers “get” the whole 2.0 thing. We may not use the tools to the degree that the Millenials do, but we see them as valuable tools and can use them.
Last is the group of non-technical GenXers and those that pre-date Generation X. While there are exceptions, they are more married to the “tried and true” methods for getting things done. They rely more on the methods and processes that they have helped develop over the years. The methods are comfortable and they “work”.
One Step at a Time
You can’t force change. Okay, in a company you can, but it breeds resentment and attrition. Some think that the Millenials should be given more control to change things. My basic question is, Into what? They don’t always understand the business or know the best way to apply what they know to the business.
Experience provides that knowledge. A good collaboration system can allow that knowledge to be shared, but what if those with the knowledge aren’t ready to dive in?
Chuck Hollis has been guiding EMC through this internally. After nine months, the system hasn’t had the adoption that he had hoped for at this point, though it is successful. They are making progress and it is growing, but it hasn’t been a revolution. His blog’s title on the subject says it all, A Journey In Social Media. His biggest tip, the initiative has to be driven top down. But if it isn’t supported bottoms-up, you’ll get nowhere.
You have to have that grassroots support to provide the foundation. It needs to grow until you have critical mass and the success that comes with it.
Getting to 2.0
Back to the company. How do you push-out a system that is very 2.0 when the organization is at 0.0? Simple, you don’t. You find something, like SharePoint, that will be inexpensive and start building the proper behaviors and attitudes. Teach them how to share information. Preach the value of emailing links and not document drafts. Show a little process can provide control without limiting creativity.
EMC was at 1.0 when they started their journey, and it is taking time to move to a 2.0 mindset. They have a solid foundation and it is growing. They have an evangelist helping. I think that is key. Repeatedly exposing users to the proper concepts will help users see the benefits in a more advanced Collaboration solution.
As users at the company in question start to learn about proper 1.0 collaborative behavior, they can slowly start thinking about the benefits of even more dynamic collaboration offered by social media.
Let the people grow, adapt, and realize that there is more. They will become hungry for the next step. It just takes time and a gentle touch.