What we can learn from a conference changing its name: a lot

The rise of digital transformation, and the decline of social business and enterprise 2.0

I am honored to be in the speaker’s roster for the upcoming Enterprise Digital Summit, scheduled for 21-22 October 2015 in London. My keynote is safely entitled Building Blocks of the Organization in the Digital Age, which gives me a great deal of leeway to talk about the future of the organization. But I am not going to dig into my talk, here. I have months to do that. (Although let me say that I will have to explode the premise of the title — that organizations can be ‘designed’ and ‘built’ like buildings or machines — and offer up more biological or sociological metaphors, instead.) Instead, I’d rather discuss the recent name change of the conference itself, and what that says about shifts in the global discourse around new ways of work.
The newly dubbed Enterprise Digital Summit was formerly known as the Enterprise 2.0 Summit. As the conference producer, Bjoern Negelmann, recently wrote,

We have been thinking about the scope of the Enterprise 2.0 Summit for quite some time. For a while now our beloved expert community has been telling us that “Social” has moved on, the “Enterprise 2.0” term is “dead” and that our conference heading doesn’t match the general “zeitgeist” of the current business landscape. We have argued against change, both because of the name recognition our event has in the community and because not every organisation is at the leading edge of change. However, in today’s disruptive business climate, every organisation’s business model is under threat and we are no different. It’s time to re-adjust. It’s time to change our name!
The question is where are we heading to? What is the best way of explaining the projects and programs of today and tomorrow?

Negelmann goes on to make a concise and partly convincing case that the rise in interest around digital transformation of the business is sucking all the oxygen out of the room, and subordinating activities that formerly might have been called enterprise 2.0 (when focused on technology first, and culture/organization/people second) or social business (when vice-versa). His colleague David Terrar added this,

During 2014 we started to shift our terminology again to digital disruption and digital transformation. The topic we are discussing is about much more than the tools and technology that organisations use to collaborate more effectively, to empower employees, to innovate and to connect with their customers, partners, employees and stakeholders in new and better ways.
It is about those things, but it is also about rethinking the world of work, adopting emergent strategy, and recognising the management shift required, along with new business models, that we must use to react and compete in the 21st century.

In a recent survey, 98% reported they are undergoing digital transformation, while only 25% could say they had a clear understanding of what that means. It’s clear we are grappling with the digital imperative, like it or not.
I define digital transformation this way:

A new operating model of business based on continuous innovation through the application of digital technologies and the restructuring of operations around customer experience to better engage with customers, the company ecosystem, and the greater marketplace.

This is both a customer-centric and technology centric perspective, and one in which workers and their work are subsumed in the efforts for innovation and operational effectiveness. In essence, the last decade of initiatives that were called social business or enterprise 2.0 (or, generically, social collaboration) are decreasing as a priority, or being completely dropped from the future agenda. Why? Why is it that digital transformation seems to be picking up where social business and enterprise 2.0 left off?
A few observations might make this clear.
First, social business is a web 2.0 era trend. The architecture of ‘social collaboration/enterprise 2.0’ tools is principally for office-bound knowledge workers with desktop computers, and based on fairly dated architectural motifs. Part of this new digital transformation is reaching all workers — on the manufacturing floor, building houses in the field, or in retail outlets — not just office workers, not just employees, not just knowledge workers.
Second, We’re now in a ‘mobile 1st, cloud 1st, people 1st’ era. Mobility is causing us to rethink nearly everything about work and business, which is invalidating many of the premises of social collaboration. We are truly working everywhere with everyone.
Third, the promise of higher productivity hasn’t materialized. I written a great deal about the failure of social collaboration, so I won’t elaborate here, except to assert that the productivity gains from this generation of social collaboration tools have been less than anticipated, to be generous.
I believe that the hard part of moving to a new way of work is not selecting tools to communicate with team members, or making old web 2.0 solutions work in a mobile world. On the contrary, the real barriers to a new way of work are cultural barriers. Or turned around, to get to a new way of work — one that is based on increased agility, resilience, and autonomy — requires a deepening of culture. And it may be that deep culture is what social business was always intended to mean, or at least what I thought it should mean.
The Boston Consulting Group makes a case for two chapters in digital transformation, where the first chapter is dedicated to operational turnaround based on the adoption of new technologies and practices.
bcg chapter 2
The second chapter is where the proof of the transformation lies, and it requires a transition to what the authors call adaptive innovation. That second chapter requires deepening culture, so that the organization is oriented toward new ways of working that align with both of — at the same time — the requirements of the new business model and the aspirations and motivations of the new workforce, those who are living on the other side of the transformation’s technological and sociological changes.
In a second post in this series of posts, I will explore the sense of urgency needed for deep cultural change to happen, and why the lack of a true sense of urgency can block deep change. Suffice it to say that adaptive innovation requires deep cultural change, and a sense of urgency to make those changes.
So, in the final analysis, as we entered chapter two in the realm of social business/enterprise 2.0, we hit the downward arc. Of course, there is a great deal of innovation in the broader area of work tech and the future of work, and we are entering chapter 1 of the digital transformation story. In that chapter, social business and enterprise 2.0 become historical antecedents. But the need for deep cultural change — yet again — will play the pivotal role in the coming second chapter of digital transformation.
That’s probably what I will talk about in October at the newly dubbed Enterprise Digital Summit event in London.

IBM is a sponsor of the Enterprise Digital Summit event.

This post was brought to you by IBM for MSPs and opinions are my own. To read more on this topic, visit IBM’s PivotPoint. Dedicated to providing valuable insight from industry thought leaders, PivotPoint offers expertise to help you develop, differentiate and scale your business.

The New Visionaries: An Interview With Susan Scrupski

I’ve known Susan Scrupski since we served on the Enterprise 2.0 conference program committee, and followed her creation of the 2.0 Adoption Council. Over the years we’ve become friends, and I thought it was high time to interview her for this series.

About Susan Scrupski

Susan is, her about.me tells us,

tirelessly working to foster new thinking and behaviors in global enterprises.
Susan Scrupski founded the The 2.0 Adoption Council and is currently growing Change Agents Worldwide.

The Interview

Stowe Boyd: I’ve watched your work since the mid ‘00s, when we served together on the Enterprise 2.0 conference program committee. And I was very intrigued when you formed The 2.0 Adoption Council. What led to the formation of the Council? You merged that into Dachis Group where it became the Social Business Council, which seems to have gone dark since September (see Juxtaposition: Dachis Group is acquired by Sprinklr, PostShift opens for business). Is it dead now?

The same way Airbnb is in the hospitality business without hotels, we are in the consulting business without employees. – Susan Scrupski

Susan Scrupski: I’d been blogging and tracking the developments of what we originally called, “Web 2.0 in the Enterprise” from 2006 on my ITSinsider blog. You and I served together as board members on the first Enterprise 2.0 Conference held in Boston in 2007. Back in those days, it was a small cadre of passionate people who were writing about the so-called movement around more open and collaborative ways of connecting and working in the large enterprise.
As a board member of the E20 conference, I noticed something distinctly different at the 2009 conference – customers were actually showing up. At that time, there was no real expertise on how to “do” E20, as most of the early adopters were just experimenting themselves. There were no consulting firms who had more knowledge than the customers themselves; not even the platform vendors were able to help these early adopters in many cases. So, The 2.0 Adoption Council was the solution to that problem in a classic startup sense. It was wildly successful and grew to many hundreds of members in a few short months. As we rolled into 2010, I started looking for ways to grow the Council beyond my ability to support it as a sole proprietor. Altimeter made me an offer; I spoke to Emergence Capital about possible funding, but it wasn’t until I had a conversation with Jeff Dachis that I felt I was ready to take the Council to the next level.
Dachis Group acquired the Council in 2010, and ultimately rebranded it to become the Social Business Council. Considering the exit Dachis Group just made, it’s clear to see why the Council was not really a fit as the focus of the company turned more toward building software for marketers. Dachis Group pulled the plug on the Council in the fall of 2013.
SB: You’ve now started Change Agents Worldwide. What’s the vision for that group?
SS: My vision has remained constant since I started tracking this space. I’ve always advocated for advancing the liberating, evolved freedoms that come along with the adoption of more human-based technologies and processes for the large enterprise. I learned a lot about networks and how people behave and what they can achieve together in networks via my experience with the Council. More importantly, I learned that there are a lot of people around the world who share my beliefs, and that there is a certain DNA required to do this sort of work.
Change Agents Worldwide is the next evolution of the work I’ve been doing since 2006. The group’s vision is squarely centered on helping large companies transition from old world models established in the industrial era to modern network-based, agile models that improve not only the work experience for the workforce, but lead to top-line gains in innovation and growth. We are a small cadre of professionals from various disciplines (HR/learning, IT, Marketing, R&D, OD, KM, Innovation) who share the same vision and values, and we run our company in the way we’re advocating by putting these principles in practice.

We’ve moved beyond the adoption of new technologies to the core tenets of what it will take to evolve the organization and the nature of work itself for the future. At Change Agents Worldwide, we believe that embracing the principles of social (transparency, authenticity, trust, and a culture of sharing/collaboration) are the foundation for the future of work. – Susan Scrupski

SB: CAWW is a loose network of cooperators? The Agents are not employees drawing a salary, right? How does an engagement with an organization work?
SS: Engagement happens within our private client pods. The network is not really that loose. We see ourselves more as a coalition and engagement within our network is fairly high. When we’re talking about project work, we like to describe our network as a “collaborative sharing economy model for consulting.” We don’t have employees; we have network members who consult. So, the same way Airbnb is in the hospitality business without hotels, we are in the consulting business without employees.
SB: What’s your take on the ‘social business is dead’ meme? My position is that it’s not dead, but it’s not enough, either: there are a number of critical trends and tech impacting the modern business, and social is just one among a short list of major forces.
SS: I was against co-opting the social business label for this sector from the beginning because it was essentially “taken” already by Nobel Peace Prize winner Muhammad Yunus, who just so happened to be trying to solve world poverty. I couldn’t convince anyone it was a bad idea back in ‘08 or so when it cropped up, so I capitulated. That editorial footnote aside, in theory, the macro conversation around what our industry’s version of social business stood for is still as relevant today as ever, in many ways, even more so. It’s problematic, however, that social pundits oftentimes use “social business” to describe two completely different phenomena, namely social inside the enterprise vs. external social media marketing and customer relations. These two worlds share a common vocabulary, but oftentimes confuse and conflate issues, further damaging a busy executive’s ability to fully grok what the import of these trends are and how they can help (and hurt) the company. Add to that the internationally well-understood concepts behind Social Enterprise (businesses with a social or environmental mission) and Yunus’ Social Business, and it just gets needlessly more complicated.

Stowe Boyd: What do you think is the single greatest barrier to company’s adopting those organization changes?
Susan Scrupski: Ironically? Success.

To your second point, could not agree more. We’ve moved beyond the adoption of new technologies to the core tenets of what it will take to evolve the organization and the nature of work itself for the future. At Change Agents Worldwide, we believe that embracing the principles of social (transparency, authenticity, trust, and a culture of sharing/collaboration) are the foundation for the future of work. Upon that foundation, organizations must retool to embrace the ubiquity of mobility, sensors, robotics, and whatever is coming next that stand to upend businesses and whole industries. And that’s just the technology thrust. The organizational changes required to compete in the 21st century are even more complex and more difficult for prevailing socially stratified leadership to accept. That’s the greater challenge, and where real expertise is in short supply.
SB: What do you think is the single greatest barrier to company’s adopting those organization changes?
SS: Ironically? Success. Successful companies have no intrinsic motivation to change, but dating back to a piece I like to refer to by the founder of BCG written in 1968, “Why Change is so Difficult,” there are predominantly three dependent reasons why companies fail to change and ultimately fail altogether: executive management doesn’t recognize or believe there is a fundamental shift underway important enough to affect the business, leadership doesn’t champion the change, and by the time they figure it out, it’s too late. This has never been more true than it is today.
SB: Thanks for your time, Susan.
SS: My pleasure Stowe! Thanks for having me.

It’s not a third way of work, it’s a freethinking way of work


A pansy

I have used the expression ‘the third way of work’ quite a lot in recent months, and this post is an attempt to explain why I will no longer be using that expression. Note this this also will lead to a new title for the book I am writing in 2014, and in at least one case I will rewrite something I published at Chautauqua — the Manifesto for A Third Way of Work — reflecting this.

Before outlining where I have come down on subject, let me share why I am recasting my discourse in this way. There are a number of distinct problems with ‘the third way of work’ nomenclature.

  • Recently, a political organization was founded called The Third Way, whose ostensible purpose was to create a centrist Democratic organization, but then turned around and attacked Senator Elizabeth Warren and Mayor Bill de Blasio for economic populism. Turns out to be backed by investment bankers (see Why the Third Way hates Sen. Elizabeth Warren). I think they have poisoned the term ‘third way’ for the foreseeable future.
  • Rawn Shah pointed out that Drew Jones has written a book called The Fifth Age of Work, which might be confusing.
  • Several people pointed out that the obvious ordinal version — Work 3.0 — sounded very tired, and perhaps some sort of riff on Enterprise 2.0. I had no idea of that arising in people’s minds, and I think it’s negative.
  • Lastly, a few contacts suggested that ‘the third way of work’ doesn’t define that way, it just makes it seem like the next wave or transition which might be rapidly followed by the fourth way, which is again not my intention.

So, having gotten myself into this situation, I spent a few weeks mulling over various ways to characterize this new way of work. There’s a long list of adjectives that I have ruled out because these emphasize one aspect of the new way of work over others, and I don’t believe that agile is more important than loose, or that autonomy is more critical than social.

Then I decided to back way up, and consider one the drivers of my investigations, an idea that sit at the foundation of my claims about the transition needed in work today. As Marco Steinberg put it,

Our fundamental problem is that we are organized for an 18th century world, facing 21st century problems.

18th century thinking was starting to shift toward progressive ideas, and the application of technology to business, like electricity and the telegraph. But a great deal of management theory and business practice — even today — is basically unchanged from the time of Henry Ford and Thomas Edison. Perhaps we’ve had more and newer technologies made available, but the scientific findings of the past 30 years — which have shed light on human cognition, the nature of social networks and sociality, and opened new fields like complexity, the science of cities, and bioeconomics — those results have not really trickled through to the slow-to-change core of entrepreneurial, late capitalist business thinking.

So I searched for a term that would represent the premise that, whatever else, business should be grounded in rational thought, not in folklore, which is what so much of business dogma actually is. And folklore in a strongly pejorative sense, since many business leaders are obdurately ignoring science that could lead to greater engagement of workers, greater innovation, creativity, and happiness in the workplace, and better customer satisfaction. (And of course today’s science is also imbued with awareness of human bias, irrationality, and the dark side of our natures, too: it is not purely sunshine and flowers.)

So, I’ve settled on ‘freethinking’ as the central characteristic of this new way of work: a term that originally arose to denote those that oppose the dogma of churches and other institutions. As Wikipedia defines it,

Freethought or free thought is a philosophical viewpoint that holds opinions should be formed on the basis of logic, reason, and empiricism, rather than authority, tradition, or other dogmas. The cognitive application of freethought is known as “freethinking”, and practitioners of freethought are known as “freethinkers”.

Freethought holds that individuals should not accept ideas proposed as truth without recourse to knowledge and reason. Thus, freethinkers strive to build their opinions on the basis of facts, scientific inquiry, and logical principles, independent of any logical fallacies or the intellectually limiting effects of authority, confirmation bias, cognitive bias, conventional wisdom, popular culture, prejudice, sectarianism, tradition, urban legend, and all other dogmas.

One of the pleasant side effects of my realization that this application of freethinking to business, today, is that I can inherit a great deal of its history. For example, the British mathematician and philosopher William Kingdon Clifford wrote what may be the best characterization:

It is wrong always, everywhere, and for anyone, to believe anything upon insufficient evidence.

And lastly, it turns out that the pansy is the symbol of freethinking, because of the association with the French work penseé, or thought.

Some might wonder, given the association of freethinking with anarchism, whether I am an anarchist: no, I am neither anarchist or communist (which is possibly a worse sin in the United States). I am merely a freethinker, looking to advance new and better ways of work, and putting aside the dangerous and destructive practices of the past, and helping to cast light on the patterns and shapes of organizations geared to the imperatives of the postnormal, 21st century.


What won’t happen in 2013

I’ve read way too many predictions about how in 2013 social business will reach some new high water mark, or how the term will fall into disuse, or maybe things will go on as before because businesses still can’t figure out what social business means in the first place.
But at the risk of stepping into a quagmire, I am going to make some predictions about the practice and theory of social business in the coming year. Or actually, what won’t. But first, let’s back up.
‘Social business’ as a concept did not fall out of the sky one day. It is the outgrowth of a long chain of earlier metaphors, most of which have fallen out of use. It is the youngest child of ‘Enterprise 2.0’, which was formed as a parallel term to the ‘Web 2.0’ meme. Web 2.0 was coined way back in 1999, and largely the outgrowth of the Tim O’Reilly/John Battelle partnership on a conference of the same name. Here’s the first known use by Nancy Dinucci:

The Web we know now, which loads into a browser window in essentially static screenfuls, is only an embryo of the Web to come. The first glimmerings of Web 2.0 are beginning to appear, and we are just starting to see how that embryo might develop. The Web will be understood not as screenfuls of text and graphics but as a transport mechanism, the ether through which interactivity happens. It will […] appear on your computer screen, […] on your TV set […] your car dashboard […] your cell phone […] hand-held game machines […] maybe even your microwave oven.

Basically the term came to mean a collection of organizing principles:

  • the web as a platform upon which applications could be built (originally based on an open source ‘LAMP stack’ — Linux, Apache, MySQL, PHP — later extended by Ajax and Ruby)
  • the web as a participatory medium, based on blogging and later, other social media and social networks.

Web 2.0, like many other attempts at branding trends, has fallen by the wayside, partly because the biggest surprise was that the revolution online in the past decade has turned out to primarily about social. As I have said for years, we invented the web to happen to ourselves, building a web where all roads lead back to us.
However, before it became widely understood that the social aspect of Web 2.0 was the most definitive, the enterprise software companies started to adopt the architectural advances and metaphors of Web 2.0, and created the derivative Enterprise 2.0. Which spawned its own conference, and a few hundred forgettable books, as well.
The rise of social networks like Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr, with their billions of users and their billion dollar valuations is perhaps the most surprising result of our wholesale migration onto the web. Social tools have become the keystone in the modern web, and the impact on modern society has been pervasive and comprehensive. We’ve moved into an era where mediating social interaction and connection online dominates the largest and most expensive human artifact ever built.
No surprise, then, that enterprise software vendors — or entrepreneurs hoping to be enterprise software vendors — would like to scrape off some of that social special sauce and smear it on top of collaborative tools, while changing the underlying technologies as little as possible. Hence, Enterprise 2.0 has yielded to Social Business with great fanfare.
At its most basic, the idea of social business is fairly obvious: the application of ideas that have animated social networks and social media technologies in the open (or ‘consumer’) web in the business context. So we see the activity streams concept lifted from Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr and screwed into today’s work media and task management tools. So, now, after a few years of social business, some conventions have arisen, like the social motif of the activity stream.
But the inherent openness of the social web has not happened in social business. And 2013 is not the year where we will see the idea of ‘open work’ catch on, where a new paradigm of cross-company work media supplants todays social collaboration technologies. Not this year.
2013 is not the year where the realities of today’s economy — growing numbers of freelancers, more short-term project-based cooperation — will become central to the tools we use to coordinate our efforts.
And lastly, 2013 will not be the year when the liberating and aspirational aspects of social business are so commonplace, and so deeply internalized in business culture that the term falls into disuse. No, 2013 is not that year.
2013 will be dominated by arguments about change, culture, and context: but that will have to wait for another post.

Workday’s public offering pops

Wall Street seems to love Workday, that is on-trend with cloud and mobile enterprise software, if a little light as a social or platform play.

Will cloud computing push the BRIC market to the front?

“Cloud first” markets — those where companies’ first serious engagements with information technology are in the form of cloud computing — are beginning to emerge. For the BRIC economies in particular, this might mean a chance to adopt low-cost solutions that will give companies a clear competitive advantage over more established enterprises bogged down by legacy infrastructure. Many pieces are already in place, and so it is worth pondering where the real force behind our knowledge industries will wind up in the next few years.

Social technologies at work? What social technologies?

New research from Forrester doesn’t just reveal that consumer phones are invading the enterprise. It also confirms some realities we see under way at offices every day and undercuts other so-called trends often mentioned by media cheerleaders (including GigaOM). What are they?