Outside in

we need to reinvent our $40bn company. Quick, let’s start a blog’ 

(Slightly adapted notes from my role as chair of this morning’s Oracle and Conchango Enterprise 2.0 event which didn’t end up getting used because of the late start caused by tube suspensions).

So first of all, thank you all very much indeed for joining us for our discussion today of Enterprise 2.0.

We’re delighted to have you.

It’s a packed half day so I won’t ramble on for too long, but I thought it was worth just airing a couple of thoughts about this whole subject of ‘Enterprise 2.0’.

It’s easy to forget that, for many people, the first experience of computers was at work. It’s where they learned how to use type with more than two fingers, where they learned to operate productivity programmes like Word and Excel. It’s where they first became with intra-office communications tools, and then with the beast that was about to assault all of our lives, email.

And the machines themselves became smaller, and cheaper, and cuter boxes, and at some point we started to think ‘these things aren’t all that bad, I could do with one in my house’. ‘I like spreadsheets so much I might get some for the kitchen’.

And then of course there was the web, and – before we knew it the 2.0 web, whatever that is… and all of a sudden everyone is online and our expectations have gone through the roof.

And really now, what we expect as consumers is quite unbelievable. Products and services that were totally unimaginable even five years ago become common place – our grandparents are using Skype, blogging and downloading Gorillazs songs from bit torrent.

You almost start to wonder: Is it denying someone’s fundamental human rights to block their access to Facebook?

And somewhere in the middle of that, Google made the old job title ‘knowledge manager’ seem pretty bizarre.

I don’t suppose I need to talk about web 2.0 here but suffice’ to say, all of a sudden, many of our companies now feel like the car parked on the hard shoulder while their staff (and customers) go whizzing past.

And let’s face facts, a lot of the systems inside businesses are pretty unambitious undertakings. Often turning into vast filing systems for exactly the sort of information that no one wanted, like organisational charts or Joyce from accounts, who’s thinking about selling a black and white television.

On the outside of our firewalls, in three short years, customers have taken the raw building blocks of the web (anything that was close to fit for purpose) and built an internet which works the way they want.

And now our employees must do the same inside our organizations. Indeed, as we’ll hear later – heaven help any of us that try and stop them

And this is not something to be frightened of. The opportunities are incredible.

Whether it is that job of knowledge management from the old days, or collaboration amongst your team or simply increasing efficiencies into all those broken old business practices, it can all be done online.

And we will continue to surprise ourselves with the idea that the staff are often much better at designing these systems than the boardrooms full of boardroom type people.

Inside out

Why Corporate Blogging works by Hugh Mcleod

Stumbled upon this very good summary from James Gardner of Lloyds TSB of the questions that face enterprises in deciding if they should ‘unleash’ the power of web 2.0 inside their corporations.

My favourite insight into all of this – which I think I originally heard from Euan Semple and James also mentions –  is when managers say, ‘Should we really be giving our staff this level of ability to publish content?’

Of course, this is the illusion of a decision. Staff already have the power outside of the firewall and will use it as they see fit. And they’ll put their own systems in to do it internally – in Euan’s case several thousand BBC staff were, as I understand it, taking part in discussion groups running on a computer sitting under his desk.

And, since when did we enter into a pitch battle with the people who work in our companies? If you read any piece of corporate literature written in the 90s, you’ll undoubtedly find some contrite aphorism that “our people are our strongest (or only) assett”. Well shouldn’t we start acting like that?

The image at the top of this post (taken from Gaping Void like all of those in this article) is part of Hugh MacLeod’s great porous membrane post. Area B is the conversation which is happening about the company in the real world. Area A is the coverstation that is happening about the company inside the company. Besides the fact that you can prove any point using Venn diagrams, Hugh’s argument is that the membrane “X” is being eroded, whether corporates like it or not, every day. And surely that’s the way it should be. The question for companies isn’t “should we play along?” but “how do we get involved with this so that people understand what it is we care about?”.

A few other great cartoons from Hugh while we’re at it:

(I’ve never understood Creative Commons but these are all from Gaping Void and all the genius is Hugh‘s)

Geroge is changing the system from the insideCluetrain for retards

Waiting tables is just a day job. My real love is telling people like you to go fuck themselves.