E20 and the diverse reality of its adoption

With the Enterprise 2.0 SUMMIT only one week ahead I really need to publish my thoughts and perceptions about the status quo of Enterprise 2.0 in Europe and our ideas towards what we want to achieve with this upcoming conference.

You might already have read the recent interviews (at Isabel Ayel’s blog or Wissensauslese) about my perceptions of the E20 developments in Europe. In brief I see the evolutions within the Enterprise 2.0 sphere very much in relation towards the “dissemination of a virus” – not yet fully spreaded but highly contagious to slowly infiltrate the whole organisation, corporation, industry and economy.

From wishful thinking back down to the diverse reality

But from a sales review last week (and yes – we are directly pitching corporates especially thowse who are still not reading blogs and social news regularly!) I also have to admit we are still at the beginning. Refering to my thoughts from March regarding the virus spreading paraphrase we are somewhere in the transition of stage 1 (corporate communications is in charge for E20) to stage 2/3 (knowledge management/operations is in charge for E20). As our sales team reports the topic E20 is still mostly related to the communications department as a misunderstood communications approach only. But those people have in many parts given up hope about the “new E20 thing” – as it has not work out for them (because they just limited it towards a communications and information flow idea!). If our sales team asked them whether knowledge management or operations is involved, many times the answer was: “No – they are not directly involved. As Social Media is about communications, we are in charge for the coordination of this topic!”

Well – this limitiation towards the information flow aspect and focus only on the improvement of internal (push) communications definitely fails the potentials of Enterprise 2.0. Therefore without no doubt the spreading of the E20 idea is disrupted at this point. Certainly there are shadow developments of E20 going on also in these companies but they are not big enough yet to cause a strategic relevance.

Investing other potential stakeholders of E20  we have to state that they are mostly still living in their own worlds and talking different “languages”. One potential group we have been approached are the people from knowledge management. When talking with members of this department our sales team got the answer: “the topic of knowledge transfer and knowledge retention is highly important but only relevant for specific departments e.g. R&D as well as sales where it provides a clearly defined and tangible return”.

The ideas of an Enterprise-wide “knowledge sharing” and the potential of the gained “ambient knowledge” with this practice are mostly inconceivable for these people – as they are very much incorporated by the knowledge management theories of Max Boisot and others who said “knowledge is only between the ears” and the externalisation of it can only be realized by external coaching (IMHO also the raison d’etre for the whole km industry!). Unfortunately I know from a lot of German Enterprise Wiki projects that support this statement with its low participation and irrelevance for the core value creation of the company. So there is a big discredit on the idea of “wikinomics” as an approach to preserve the knowledge of the enterprise.

Another group of people who could take a new and sustainable stance to the new forms of information and collaboration management is the department that is in charge for operations and the organisational development. But those people are mainly just entering the E20 arena and gaining first insights and knowledge of the E20 thingy. Though in charge for process innovations they are still very much resistant to visionary thoughts and above all to the “enthusiastic” language of E20 evangelists. Especially in Germany (but also in France as what I have heard from Bertrand) these people have again their own language-specific term definitions that are not really in line with the Anglo-Saxian E20 language.

Drawing the line

Wrapping up the situation – for the bigger parts of the corporations we are in a situation where E20 is not only faced with the problem of “siloed” information management to be solved by E20 but even with the problem of “siloed” expert languages to hinder E20 even get started right. So those people – who should sit together at the table to discuss the recommended changes to successfully start and adopt to the new forms of information and collaboration management – cannot come together as (1) they are not talking the same language and (2) see different things behind the idea of E20! As a result the E20 (r)evolution in Europe is much slower than in the US where this topic is very much flourishing. As a side note for the group of E20 evangelist – you have to start talking about this topic in a more old-fashioned language to really make an impact!

Nonetheless the E20 SUMMIT will try to make a veritable point and to advance the discussions in the directions of solving E20 project issues. Several of these issues are part of “expert talk” track like the cultural problems in pan-European companies, the pitfalls of the conception of E20 initiatives, the different adoption archetypes (as there is no one-fits-all solution!) or the already mentioned participation problem. Last week we even added a discussion between the “traditionalist” of knowledge management and the “E20 evangelists”. In our keynote sessions we talk about the “big wheels” of setting up new forms of leadership, the needed change towards the organisational design as well as new ideas for a socially enabled business model. On the other hand we try to show the potentials of E20 along the discussions of different practices and its lessons learned – distinguished by the different use case scenarios. And in order to really make an impact we are going to documentate all our discussions, provide video streams in realtime and after the show, collect feedbacks from the participants at the show (and publish these after the show!) as well as drive the distinguished discussion around the topic.

Despite all the adversities we are very excited about the upcoming conference and very much looking forward to welcome the attending crowd in Frankfurt as well as the virtual community on the networks. I personally like to say thank you already to all the participating speakers, the advisory board for its input, the ambassadors for the support as well as Cathrin Gill – our project manager for this year’s conference – in taking over the job of “herding the cats” of advisory board members, speakers and ambassadors.


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  3. Bart Schutte says:

    Bjoerne, you make an interesting observation on the state of adoption in Europe. Based on my own journey and those of others in the 2.0 Adoption Council (http://www.linkedin.com/groups?mostPopular=&gid=2066575) I think there is strong element of luck that determines whether or not E20 can take off in a company as a holistic effort and not as isolated efforts by Communications, Training, or Marketing. In the ideal situation, it is a combined initiative from the business, IT, HR, and Communications, and it has senior management support. But how do you get there? It takes a lot of luck.

    You have to have an IT group that (i) recognizes the need for a common platform before individual businesses go off in their own direction, and has the power to make that selection, and (ii) has the humility to recognize that E20 solutions, more than any other IT system in the group, must address the needs and styles of use of the user foremost. And to make it simple, this means is about usability and the user experience. It’s not about a complex matrix mapping features to requirements that most users couldn’t identify upfront.

    You need to have an RH group who accpets that part of it’s role is about empowering employees, building attachment to the organisation, and driving the enterprise towards a learning collaborative enterprise.

    You need a Communications group who is willing to shift to a 2.0 style of communication, which is not top-down corporate communication, but distributed, horizontal communication where everyone participates and Corp Comms plays the role of a news editor an blogger.

    And you need a business management mindset that is not afraid to let the people speak; who does not see power coming from their control of information and communication channels. And who is enlightened enough to recognize that time spent sharing is not wasted time.

    How has this worked in my own company? You and I spoke about this at the E20 Summit Paris last spring. We did not start at the top with the CEO. We started with a business pilot to collect stories about the benefits. We lead from IT by seleting a common platform for the group, but we did not roll it out as a group program; we simply provided the platform. Ove rtime more and more businesses got the message and started asking for the service. A new HR director joined the company who “gets it” and believes that to achieve the vision of our (relatively) new CEO, we need to radically change our working behaviors and be more transverse. And through a lot of luck (because I can’t control all of these things) we are at the point where both the CIo and HR director and some business leaders are ready to take this to the CEO and say “these needs to be a top-down corporate initiative championed by you.” We’re a few months away still, but we’ve made huge progress.

    And that element of luck is required just as much in the states as it is here in Europe. I know because I’m American, and I know form my 2.0 Council colleagues in the states.

    What hurts Europe is that our management style tend to be top-down command-and-control style, and that creates a barrier to 2.0. You need to find the right managers. Our HR organisations are too focused on Executive Career Development and workers council management, and not development of all employees. You need to find HR directors that are focused on the corporate culture and employee empowerment. It helps to have a corporate mission that requires real change in the way the company works. You need corporate communication that is willing to change how it works because it is focused on the objective of enabling corporate change and corporate culture development, and not in the preservation of the Status Quo.

    IT groups tend to be very focused on IT architecture and integrity and not the users. But to be honest, it’s the same in the USA. You have to find senior IT people who understand that it is about the people and not the technology.

    And so at the end of the day, as the evangelist, you slug along like Sisyphus until one day, all of the elements are aligned and it starts to click.

    And then the real challenge begins, which is driving the cultural change as fast and as far as possible. Because long-term competitve advantage does not come from th tools, but how the tools are used.

    Have a great conference. Wish I could be there.


  4. Bart Schutte says:

    Bjoerne, you make an interesting observation on the state of adoption in Europe. Based on my own journey and those of others in the 2.0 Adoption Council (http://www.linkedin.com/groups?mostPopular=&gid=2066575) I think there is strong element of luck that determines whether or not E20 can take off in a company as a holistic effort and not as isolated efforts by Communications, Training, or Marketing. In the ideal situation, it is a combined initiative from the business, IT, HR, and Communications, and it has senior management support. But how do you get there? It takes a lot of luck.

    You have to have an IT group that (i) recognizes the need for a common platform before individual businesses go off in their own direction, and has the power to make that selection, and (ii) has the humility to recognize that E20 solutions, more than any other IT system in the group, must address the needs and styles of use of the user foremost. And to make it simple, this means is about usability and the user experience. It’s not about a complex matrix mapping features to requirements that most users couldn’t identify upfront.

    You need to have an RH group who accpets that part of it’s role is about empowering employees, building attachment to the organisation, and driving the enterprise towards a learning collaborative enterprise.

    You need a Communications group who is willing to shift to a 2.0 style of communication, which is not top-down corporate communication, but distributed, horizontal communication where everyone participates and Corp Comms plays the role of a news editor an blogger.

    And you need a business management mindset that is not afraid to let the people speak; who does not see power coming from their control of information and communication channels. And who is enlightened enough to recognize that time spent sharing is not wasted time.

    How has this worked in my own company? You and I spoke about this at the E20 Summit Paris last spring. We did not start at the top with the CEO. We started with a business pilot to collect stories about the benefits. We lead from IT by seleting a common platform for the group, but we did not roll it out as a group program; we simply provided the platform. Ove rtime more and more businesses got the message and started asking for the service. A new HR director joined the company who “gets it” and believes that to achieve the vision of our (relatively) new CEO, we need to radically change our working behaviors and be more transverse. And through a lot of luck (because I can’t control all of these things) we are at the point where both the CIo and HR director and some business leaders are ready to take this to the CEO and say “these needs to be a top-down corporate initiative championed by you.” We’re a few months away still, but we’ve made huge progress.

    And that element of luck is required just as much in the states as it is here in Europe. I know because I’m American, and I know form my 2.0 Council colleagues in the states.

    What hurts Europe is that our management style tend to be top-down command-and-control style, and that creates a barrier to 2.0. You need to find the right managers. Our HR organisations are too focused on Executive Career Development and workers council management, and not development of all employees. You need to find HR directors that are focused on the corporate culture and employee empowerment. It helps to have a corporate mission that requires real change in the way the company works. You need corporate communication that is willing to change how it works because it is focused on the objective of enabling corporate change and corporate culture development, and not in the preservation of the Status Quo.

    IT groups tend to be very focused on IT architecture and integrity and not the users. But to be honest, it’s the same in the USA. You have to find senior IT people who understand that it is about the people and not the technology.

    And so at the end of the day, as the evangelist, you slug along like Sisyphus until one day, all of the elements are aligned and it starts to click.

    And then the real challenge begins, which is driving the cultural change as fast and as far as possible. Because long-term competitve advantage does not come from th tools, but how the tools are used.

    Have a great conference. Wish I could be there.


  5. Bjoern Negelmann Post author says:

    Thanks Bart for your comment. And yes I agree for a successful and holistic approach you need senior management support and a cross-functional agreement to do so. And yet though we emphasize the phrase “E20 is not about technology” – technology is the enabler and therefore a certain level of service provision by IT must be set to start any initiative on top of it.
    Nevertheless from the observation I made I still have the question whether the now starting late adopters in the E20 field can “leap-frog” the “virus spreading process” at any stage _or_ whether they have to go along this different stages of hype and disillusion in order to achieve a certain degree of cultural change on the way and to have gathered together a cross-functional team to start the really successful project in the subsequent phase?

  6. Bjoern Negelmann Post author says:

    Thanks Bart for your comment. And yes I agree for a successful and holistic approach you need senior management support and a cross-functional agreement to do so. And yet though we emphasize the phrase “E20 is not about technology” – technology is the enabler and therefore a certain level of service provision by IT must be set to start any initiative on top of it.
    Nevertheless from the observation I made I still have the question whether the now starting late adopters in the E20 field can “leap-frog” the “virus spreading process” at any stage _or_ whether they have to go along this different stages of hype and disillusion in order to achieve a certain degree of cultural change on the way and to have gathered together a cross-functional team to start the really successful project in the subsequent phase?

  7. Bertrand Duperrin says:

    I agree with Bart. In my experience I saw projects start in many different ways and, at one time, something happens, like a spark that makes that a couple of initiatives leaded by passionate and convinced people are turned into a global and successful project.

    We all agree on what’s needed but the starting point is never the same.

    But in our culture no-one will buy the “luck” effect although everyone agrees that there’s no “one best way”. So our mission is to make luck a certainty…without mentioning the word 🙂

    I like what Rex Lee once said about the value of enterprise 2.0 and can also apply to way the project is lead :

    “Enterprise 1.0, would suggest that only specialized, trained individuals with the resources knew how to find pearls (i.e. where to dive, specialized equipment, knowledge on how to abstract the pearl from the shelled mollusk, etc.).

    Enterprise 2.0 suggests that we can simplify and remove some of the “specialization” barriers to enable more people to search for pearls. Perhaps the knowledge is more accessible, the technology becomes simpler and less expensive, etc… This would mean, more people can participate, and we could search more places increasing the likelihood of finding those pearls. People could find pearls in areas never previously considered. This is better but it can be even better.

    Enterprise 2.1 would suggest that rather than “serendipitously” finding pearls, that we coordinate our efforts to actually create pearl farms. ”

    http://rexsthoughtspot.blogspot.com/2010/06/beyond-serendipity-for-enterprise-20.html


  8. Bertrand Duperrin says:

    I agree with Bart. In my experience I saw projects start in many different ways and, at one time, something happens, like a spark that makes that a couple of initiatives leaded by passionate and convinced people are turned into a global and successful project.

    We all agree on what’s needed but the starting point is never the same.

    But in our culture no-one will buy the “luck” effect although everyone agrees that there’s no “one best way”. So our mission is to make luck a certainty…without mentioning the word 🙂

    I like what Rex Lee once said about the value of enterprise 2.0 and can also apply to way the project is lead :

    “Enterprise 1.0, would suggest that only specialized, trained individuals with the resources knew how to find pearls (i.e. where to dive, specialized equipment, knowledge on how to abstract the pearl from the shelled mollusk, etc.).

    Enterprise 2.0 suggests that we can simplify and remove some of the “specialization” barriers to enable more people to search for pearls. Perhaps the knowledge is more accessible, the technology becomes simpler and less expensive, etc… This would mean, more people can participate, and we could search more places increasing the likelihood of finding those pearls. People could find pearls in areas never previously considered. This is better but it can be even better.

    Enterprise 2.1 would suggest that rather than “serendipitously” finding pearls, that we coordinate our efforts to actually create pearl farms. ”

    http://rexsthoughtspot.blogspot.com/2010/06/beyond-serendipity-for-enterprise-20.html


  9. Samuel Driessen says:

    Nice post, Bjoern! I recognize lots of what you’re saying. Although I do wonder if you’re talking mostly about Germany and France. I do see we are just beginning in this space. We have a long way to go. And as Bart says: It does require luck. E.g. I’m lucky to collaborate closely with an internal comms expert, which really speeds up implementation.
    In Holland I see lots of movement in the e2.0 space. Most of it is bottom-up though (- Holland has a pretty bottom-up culture…). And definitely ‘still’ in phase 1. My definition of phase 1 is: one department does the push and it’s started bottom-up. But I also see companies moving to the next phases. These are the companies that get asked to give presentations everywhere to inspire others to start experimenting. And the whole social business, social media and business processes discussion, also tells me enterprise 2.0 is moving into the primary process of organizations.
    True, I think the US is further than we are. They’re also good at marketing the push! 🙂 On the other hand I see lots of deep thinking on this side of the pond. From you, Lee Bryant, Bertrand Duperrin, Luis Suarez, to name a few.
    To answer the question in your comment: Yes, I think all have to go through all stages. Starting in phase 1. I think it’s just like personal social media use: You can’t just look at an expert and jump up to his/her level right away because he/she has paved the way.
    We’ll continue this interesting conversation in Frankfurt! 🙂

  10. Samuel Driessen says:

    Nice post, Bjoern! I recognize lots of what you’re saying. Although I do wonder if you’re talking mostly about Germany and France. I do see we are just beginning in this space. We have a long way to go. And as Bart says: It does require luck. E.g. I’m lucky to collaborate closely with an internal comms expert, which really speeds up implementation.
    In Holland I see lots of movement in the e2.0 space. Most of it is bottom-up though (- Holland has a pretty bottom-up culture…). And definitely ‘still’ in phase 1. My definition of phase 1 is: one department does the push and it’s started bottom-up. But I also see companies moving to the next phases. These are the companies that get asked to give presentations everywhere to inspire others to start experimenting. And the whole social business, social media and business processes discussion, also tells me enterprise 2.0 is moving into the primary process of organizations.
    True, I think the US is further than we are. They’re also good at marketing the push! 🙂 On the other hand I see lots of deep thinking on this side of the pond. From you, Lee Bryant, Bertrand Duperrin, Luis Suarez, to name a few.
    To answer the question in your comment: Yes, I think all have to go through all stages. Starting in phase 1. I think it’s just like personal social media use: You can’t just look at an expert and jump up to his/her level right away because he/she has paved the way.
    We’ll continue this interesting conversation in Frankfurt! 🙂

  11. Luis Suarez says:

    Hi Bjoern, what a fascinating blog post, as usual! Thanks much for sharing these insights and also for opening up the conversations on what promises to be one of those must-attend events of the year! Really glad to see some of the commentary as well from other fellow knowledge workers from various other countries to try to get some perspectives of where we are as a geography. So here I am, offering my thoughts from a Spanish perspective…

    A couple of years back I would have probably stated how things were going rather slow as most businesses were just starting to “listen” to all of that fuss under Enterprise 2.0. No-one wanted to buy into this new way of “doing things”, because no-one had any further experiences or info to share, other than that coming from the US. So eventually most businesses have been reluctant to dive in right away.

    However, that’s slowly changing over the last couple of years, as more and more of them are questioning their business models and how they are operating wanting to improve things, to work smarter, not much as a result of Enterprise 2.0 in itself, but more around the economic and financial pressures imposed by the crisis. That mantra of wanting to achieve more with less is becoming more and more relevant nowadays. That window of opportunity to want to keep reducing costs consistently while still remaining competitive has been the missing opportunity that E2.0 didn’t have till now.

    Yes, the top down, command and control structures, the “Knowledge is power” motto, the want to control the message, etc. etc. are still there, but that financial pressure I just mentioned above, funny enough, is starting to overturn everything else, which means that businesses are starting to open up to new methods of engagement, of collaborating and sharing their knowledge across with their peers, customers and business partners. It’s an opportunity not to be missed as they themselves get immersed in that whole new concept of co-creation that Enterprise 2.0 is helping facilitate where customers, for the first time, are now finally part of the equation. So I’m starting to see how plenty of Enterprise 2.0 efforts have gone beyond the firewall walls and live, “out there”, on the Internet, with extremely good results. Very encouraging!

    With regards to the whole topic of Knowledge Management, I think we are starting to witness as well how E2.0 is helping democratise knowledge sharing and knowledge transfer activities releasing the power to the masses vs. just having a bunch of experts driving it through. I am starting to witness a shift in gears where the good old mantra of “Knowledge is power” is being transformed into “Knowledge shared is power”; it’s becoming more of a personal knowledge sharing experience as part of a community or network(s), versus just teams or hierarchies. And the interesting part is that although at the beginning people may have felt threatened by such radical transformation, it’s slowly to start sinking in much nicer now as businesses start realizing how they cannot hoard / hide their knowledge, but effectively how by sharing it they become better at what they do.

    And the same thing that happens with businesses is also happening with knowledge workers across the board. They are starting to see the benefits and business value of belong to networks and hanging around networks and communities versus ors, hierarchies or small teams. We are starting to see how they are making the successful transition from relying on their personal networks to start relying more and more on their community networks. Fascinating journey, to say the least, since it re-introduces some of the main key principles that KM was built upon over 15 years ago.

    Resulting, eventually, in the consolidation that we may not be reinventing anything new after all; we just changed the names and definitions, but the core set of activities seems to be the very same! Fascinating trend I am more than excited to talk more about on our upcoming panel on the bridges between E2.0 and KM. After all, despite the virtual wars throughout the years, they are not that far apart from each other …

    Looking forward to meeting up lots of great 2.0 talent over the next couple of days… Keep up the dialogue! 🙂


  12. Luis Suarez says:

    Hi Bjoern, what a fascinating blog post, as usual! Thanks much for sharing these insights and also for opening up the conversations on what promises to be one of those must-attend events of the year! Really glad to see some of the commentary as well from other fellow knowledge workers from various other countries to try to get some perspectives of where we are as a geography. So here I am, offering my thoughts from a Spanish perspective…

    A couple of years back I would have probably stated how things were going rather slow as most businesses were just starting to “listen” to all of that fuss under Enterprise 2.0. No-one wanted to buy into this new way of “doing things”, because no-one had any further experiences or info to share, other than that coming from the US. So eventually most businesses have been reluctant to dive in right away.

    However, that’s slowly changing over the last couple of years, as more and more of them are questioning their business models and how they are operating wanting to improve things, to work smarter, not much as a result of Enterprise 2.0 in itself, but more around the economic and financial pressures imposed by the crisis. That mantra of wanting to achieve more with less is becoming more and more relevant nowadays. That window of opportunity to want to keep reducing costs consistently while still remaining competitive has been the missing opportunity that E2.0 didn’t have till now.

    Yes, the top down, command and control structures, the “Knowledge is power” motto, the want to control the message, etc. etc. are still there, but that financial pressure I just mentioned above, funny enough, is starting to overturn everything else, which means that businesses are starting to open up to new methods of engagement, of collaborating and sharing their knowledge across with their peers, customers and business partners. It’s an opportunity not to be missed as they themselves get immersed in that whole new concept of co-creation that Enterprise 2.0 is helping facilitate where customers, for the first time, are now finally part of the equation. So I’m starting to see how plenty of Enterprise 2.0 efforts have gone beyond the firewall walls and live, “out there”, on the Internet, with extremely good results. Very encouraging!

    With regards to the whole topic of Knowledge Management, I think we are starting to witness as well how E2.0 is helping democratise knowledge sharing and knowledge transfer activities releasing the power to the masses vs. just having a bunch of experts driving it through. I am starting to witness a shift in gears where the good old mantra of “Knowledge is power” is being transformed into “Knowledge shared is power”; it’s becoming more of a personal knowledge sharing experience as part of a community or network(s), versus just teams or hierarchies. And the interesting part is that although at the beginning people may have felt threatened by such radical transformation, it’s slowly to start sinking in much nicer now as businesses start realizing how they cannot hoard / hide their knowledge, but effectively how by sharing it they become better at what they do.

    And the same thing that happens with businesses is also happening with knowledge workers across the board. They are starting to see the benefits and business value of belong to networks and hanging around networks and communities versus ors, hierarchies or small teams. We are starting to see how they are making the successful transition from relying on their personal networks to start relying more and more on their community networks. Fascinating journey, to say the least, since it re-introduces some of the main key principles that KM was built upon over 15 years ago.

    Resulting, eventually, in the consolidation that we may not be reinventing anything new after all; we just changed the names and definitions, but the core set of activities seems to be the very same! Fascinating trend I am more than excited to talk more about on our upcoming panel on the bridges between E2.0 and KM. After all, despite the virtual wars throughout the years, they are not that far apart from each other …

    Looking forward to meeting up lots of great 2.0 talent over the next couple of days… Keep up the dialogue! 🙂


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