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[berkman] Berkman lunch: Andrew McAfee on Enterprise 2.0

Andrew McAfee, the Enterprise 2.0 guy, is giving a Berkman lunchtime talk. He begins by defining the term as “the use of emergent social software platforms by organizations in pursuit of their goals.” This technology tends to be emergent, bottom up, etc. [NOTE: I’m live blogging, making mistakes, missing stuff, creating typos, etc. Reader beware.] He contrasts this with ERP systems that are top-down, highly specific, etc. “The huge shift” is that the 2.0 tools “make an effort to get out of the way of the users at the front” but then allow structure to emerge.

“The Net is the world’s largest library. The problem is that all the books are on the floor,” he says, citing an old saw.

Companies are interested in what’s going on because they’ve used Wikipedia or their kids are on Facebook. But companies want to know what the tools are and how they’re different. Also, they ask, “Why do I care?” What’s in it for me as a pragmatic businessperson, they ask.

To answer these questions, Andrew points to what a knowledge worker’s view of the enterprise is, from the inside. At the core are a small group of people with whom she has strong ties. Then there’s a larger group of people with whom she has weak ties. Then there’s a set of people the knowledge worker should be tied to, but is not. [He draws concentric circles.]

Three points.
1. We spend a lot of time strengthening ties that are already strong.

2. The weaker and potential ties are hugely important. (He cites The Strength of Weak Ties.)

3. Classically inside orgs, “we’ve had lousy technology,” particularly at the outer two rings. How do you keep track of your weak ties? (One solution, he says, is the Christmas-time newsletter from acquaintances.) Corporate directories try to highlight expertise to enhance the third ring, but they don’t work well. Instead, people work their networks.


There’s a fourth ring: Where there are no ties. Strangers who are not going to form any professional bond. But 2.0 enables them to come together for “powerful outcomes.”

Now Andrew looks at prototypical technologies available for each of the four rings. (He notes that these technologies are useful only at those rings.)

1. Strong ties: Wikis, Google Docs, etc. About 2/3 of traditional folks do this by sending email attachments around, but no one is happy about it. Example: VistaPrint Wiki: 18 months, 280 registered users, 12,000 topics, 77,000 page edits.

2. Weak ties: Social networking software. Various social networking tools let you link up networks, e.g., Tweets that point elsewhere. E.g., Facebook at Serena: 90% penetration, 50% active users. Helped with new hires.

Potential ties: Blogosphere. Blogging is “narrating your work.” Add a search engine and you can find others interested in the same things. E.g., Intrawest. Andrew points to a post about radiant heated floors, with some helpful commenting, etc. [Great example.] Another example: The 16 US intelligence agencies have installed 2.0 tools, such as Intellipedia, blogging, tagging, etc. This gives access to a pool of info, but, more important, makes connections among brains.

4. No ties: Prediction markets. E.g., Google’s Prediction Markets, inside of companies. These work even when you don’t have that many traders. “Why do we even have forecasting departments in companies.”

Q: Say more about Google prediction markets?
A: [Andrew gives some examples. He talks very quickly.]

Q: [gene] Would prediction markets work less effectively if there weren’t pollsters and forecasting departments? Is this Web 2.0 stuff layered on top of the traditional stuff?
A: Yes, the traders on the Iowa poll are looking at polls. Good point.

Q: Why are these trader markets accurate? Why do we still use polls?
A: Hayek in the middle of the 20th century, when intellectuals were enthralled with collective, said that they had it work. A market’s pricing system is a brilliant system for aggregating and transmitting information, said Hayek. These trader markets work because a massive number of traders express their own preferences, values, beliefs. Polling will become less important. And, yes, people try to manipulate these markets, but so far the attempts don’t work very well.

Q: What does this say about science, e.g., the change from using randomized control trial for doing science? E.g., you could run a wiki instead and process the data…
A: So, why doesn’t Merck just set up a prediction market for whether a drug will work. But the FDA wouldn’t accept it.

Q: [me] If you look at an enterprise as a power structure, how does this play?
A: I ask this of companies all the time, and they tend to say they don’t see it. But it’s probably because they’re not looking deeply at enough. In the intelligence community, they’re explicitly moving from “need to know” to “responsible to share.”
Q: [me] Although in a rigidly and explicitly structure org like intelligence, there isn’t as much jockeying for power by working the network…
A: [Andrew tells of the use of social networking to gain prominence and position in the intelligence community.]

Q: How public, how shareable should this info be?
A: That’s one of the first concerns management teams express. But people don’t need Web 2.0 tools to walk outside the org with confidential info. Web 2.0 does increase the number of people who have access to the info. But, the intelligence community, for example, understands that there’s a risk to not sharing as well. Too many companies close down their connections too much; they tend to stay at the level of the strong ties. That forecloses the possibility that someone in the other part of the organization might have a contribution to make. E.g., Innocentive anonymized problem statements and posted them on the Net for anyone to work on. Eric Raymond: With enough eyeballs, all bugs are shallow.

Q: What kinds of technologies are likely to be deployed? What types of businesses? What problems?
A: Companies are proud they’ve set up wikis for strongly tied groups, but they’re often walled gardens. Unsurprisingly, tech companies are usually the first to adopt these technologies. It’s not that E2.0 is sweeping all companies, without hesitation or doubt.

Q: Bad behavior?
A: Sure. But there’s also frequently some moderation of bad behavior, in part because inside the org, identity is the default. People generally know how to behave already. “My collection of horror stories is very very thin.”

Q: [doc] Isn’t it really very early. More versions? Fanning out of versions? What?
A: Inside the enterprise, it’s very early days. E2.0 is a prediction. Web 2.0 is much more the norm on the Web. So yes, early days. I find the rise of the Semantic Web as Web 2.0 really really speculative. 2.0 is about people. Web 2.0 is another geek utopia where the machines are in charge and people are out of the way.

Q: I was selling social software solutions to companies in Korea 7 years ago. But after 2-3 years, employees didn’t want to use them because they’re in addition to their work. Is this short term?
A: Socialtext makes a distinction between tools you use in the flow of your job or above the flow. If it’s in the flow, it’ll preserve. If you’re serious about it in your organization, put incentives and measurement in place. Some people I respect say that this is 180 degrees wrong.

Q: When will we see a divergence between those who use these tools and are winning, and those who do not and are not?
A: I’ve been doing research on this. Is IT separating winners from users? Is it irrelevant to competition? It turns out that the more IT an industry consumes, the more winners have been differentiated from users since about the mid 1990s.

[david horvik] There were attempts to drive social tools inward, but the winner was LinkedIn, which is remarkably outwards facing. Are mainstream social products going to be brought in to the enterprise. As for whether investing in IT drives winners, there’s a company selling IT to banks. You’d think this is a bad time. But the banks want optimization and efficiency. The only question is how long it takes for something to be recognized as working. It’s interesting to ask when these social media will become recognized? Is twitter replacing blogging? etc. It evolves so quickly.
A: A lot of the management teams I talk with want the pace of technology to slow down. But that’s not going to happen.

[pistachio] Twitter will be big in enterprises. No?
A: Yes. Great tool for strengthening weak ties and potential ties. And Twitter got the asymmetry right. [I.e., not everyone you follow follows you.] And it’s so lightweight to use — 10 seconds to send out a tweet?
Q: What are companies going to see as the issue?
A: They’ve had to internalize so much. It’s weird and frightening to someone who just wants to make dogfood. It’s going to take longer than 6 months.

[posted without proofreading. sorry.] [Tags: ]

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