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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