Perceptions on the importance of the cultural background to the adoption strategy

Since we are preparing the E20 SUMMIT I have become a regular visitor in Paris and participant of the French Enterprise 2.0 discussions – and I have to say that the observations I made during my trips and meetups support once more my view that there is no such thing as a generalized adoption strategy. Besides size and industry settings I see the cultural background as a very strong influence of the adoption strategy.

Without having statistical data and only derived from subjective perceptions and interpretations of talks with German and French executives I like to state that E20 projects in France and in Germany are in many ways different. In the end they all follow the same vision of the socially enhanced and collaborative organization but the key drivers for the projects are as different as the challenges that go along with the adoption.

Starting off with Germany – I see the majority of E20 projects based on a strong objective in improving the knowledge sharing in the company. This might be more or less hierarchically organized – in terms of whether there are pre-defined sharing spaces (e.g. wiki spaces, discussion spaces in collaboration platforms or topic-related blogs) or adhoc knowledge space (e.g. tagging related spaces in social messaging platforms). But in anycase the key driver for introducing social software concepts to the enterprise is very often the urge to improve the information flow and the knowledge sharing. This might be explained by the more dezentralized structure of German organizations and the industry in general. Knowledge is seen already as a high-valuable asset that needs to be made accessible and transparent. The key challenges of E20 initiatives in Germany is to convince people of the value of knowledge sharing – as knowledge is also seen as a highly competitive asset of both people and companies. So the success of E20 in a German-based organization lies very much upon the transformation of mindset in regards to the higher value of a knowledge-sharing co-worker. The ROI discussion of these E20 projects are therefore based on the calculation of not sharing and the lost business opportunities of the enterprise.

In France I see quite a number of E20 projects being built around the social
networking idea – in order to enhance the organization by the layer of digital interconnection of its peers. The objective is to support adhoc collaboration and coordination along business processes. This is a very much different approach than the German on to me – the implementation of the network is at first in order to derive value from the indirect/network effects of being interconnected. This is also related to the strong notion of personal networking within the French economy – especially in the elite networks of bureaucrats and executives. But while those elite networks of the so-called “cadre” – graduates from private schools in c-level positions – are very much informal and closed, the social networking goes beyond this. And while this is a chance for the French economic system to overcome the education-based system (for more information on the cadre system you might want to study the works of Geert Hofstede), it is also the biggest challenge for the adoption. Because it’s clear – for the non-“cadre” (blue and white collar workers beneath the C-level) social networks are a big chance to overcome the beaucracy, but for the “cadre” it is a thread. And another point is the “weak” ROI of just social networking – because it is very much dependant on the added value of the increased transparency.

So these two short observations already show the importance of different adoption approaches by cultural background. At the E20 SUMMIT we want to explore this again in more depth with a session on adoption strategies as well as a roundtable with insights from different cultural background. Furthermore E20 SUMMIT will be the time Richard Collin and Nicolas Rolland will announce the results of their research on E20 in France – which will also be part of the sessions about the “models of transformation“.

So I am very much looking forward to this in depth discussion about this – but I am also keen about your opinion and feedback to this.