Sunday, July 17, 2011

Social business in the enterprise: two stories

There has been a lot of interests introducing social platform within enterprise to improve knowledge sharing and business interaction. Putting in place the tools are relatively easy, identifying the opportunity to use interactive 2.0 tools to add value to the business is an art (as it requires good understanding of business needs and organisation culture), ensuring the online interaction/conversation is authentic, meaningful, genuine and deep is the hardest.

Here are two stories to get me/you recognise the challenges in using 2.0 tools to flatten hierarchy:

1. A senior executive is hosting an online discussion with his global team. He invites everyone to ask questions and leave comments relating to a strategic topic. One staff has a question, but instead of posting on the forum, the staff feels more comfortable sending the question to his line manager, asks his line manage to review and edit the question before he posts it up to the forum. What intrigue me is that on one hand the senior executive wants to break down hierarch using the forum, on the other hand, the hierarchical structure continues to reinforce the norm to seek line manager's approval before one can speak, and even so, what he posts up is not his authentic voice. Does the discussion forum achieve the purpose of supporting 2-way dialogue to break down hierarchy?

2. A blogger posts a blog post with a controversial title which gives the impression that he does not agree with a senior executive's judgement. Within 24 hours after the blog post went up, the blogger receives a call from someone working in senior executive office sharing the feedback that blog post may give the wrong impression to other readers and suggests the blogger to edit the blog title. What intrigue me is that many enterprise wants to promote blogging to improve knowledge sharing, but on the other hand are not ready to tolerate diverse views and perspectives. What is the point of blogging when blog posts can only agree with the status quo?

It is a long journey for business to go social within the enterprise (Euan Semple asks us to be patient in his recent blog), because it is not system implementation, it is not even cultural change, it is a fundamental change in how the hierarchy works and how every individual interact with one another and establishing new norms. And when we get there, it is going to be satisfying to look back and realize so much has evolved and everyone has changed.