I learned something from art today

In the gym this morning, I watched Silvia Beck’s documentary “Michael Nyman – Composer in Progress“. This fascinating portrait not only distracted me from the fact that I was exhausting myself in monotonous exercise, but thrilled me so much that I jotted down some notes for this blog entry right after my workout. The documentary made me think about art and movies – and how they connect with the work and passion I put into Social Business (aka Enterprise 2.0).

Michal Nyman is a multifaceted artist: composer, conductor, pianist, author, music theorist, photographer and film maker. His name may not sound familiar, but probably some of his music does. He composed the compelling soundtrack for Oscar-winning masterpiece “The Piano” (the album became a bestseller in its own right) and for several films directed by Peter Greenaway (inlcuding Prospero’s Books which I like a lot).

I was very surprised to learn that Nyman wrote the music for “The Piano” without watching a single scene from the film. “I do not want to decorate a movie, but add something that could stand for its own”, says the composer . This view is supported by director Volker Schlöndorff who recounts that Nyman’s music for “The Ogre” makes some hidden aspects of the movie’s story perceivable (e. g. the main character’s hubris or the hidden dissent in the castle). Schlöndorff adds: “Michael Nyman is a great composer for a director, maybe not for the producer”.

So how does this connect to Social Business? In my job, I strive to conduct a mass movement, but I also need to cater for the director and the producer. A lot of blog posts and publications I recently saw on Social Business were geared towards the producers – the guys who provide the funding for our activities and want to see a solid return on investment. And don’t get me wrong: Social Business must deliver business value. However, as “raison d’être”, contributing to a company’s financial performance would not be enough.

Think of the movies: They are financed because the producers hope to make a profit. But they are made because the director, the screenwriter, the actors, the composer, etc. want to create something that is connected to an idea larger than itself and that touches people’s heart and soul. This may not be true for every movie you have ever watched, but certainly for those that you feel passionate about.

A few years ago, my husband and I met Glenn Cotter. He is a digital artist and has contributed visual effects to numerous movies – many of them blockbusters like “The last Samurai” or “The Avengers”. When we asked him about his work, he described how he made scenes shot in contemporary locations turn into something that looks like decades or centuries ago (at least that’s what he did in 2003). We could feel that this complex artwork is a labor of love, and that for him it’s not primarily about the economic performance of a movie, but more about the idea and the beauty of the piece of art he helps to create. His filmography shows that this approach does not keep the movies from becoming very successful.

When I think of the people I know who work as Social Business evangelists – we are all striving for creating business success, but what really drives us is the passion to create something. In our case, it’s not a movie, but a better way of communicating and collaborating. And those colleagues who become Social Business pioneers in our companies are usually not the number-crunchers, but the playful free spirits who understand the beauty of the concept.

How can we move Social Business to mainstream without catering to the producers only? I believe that a singular focus on value creation would result in a utilitarian approach that might convince people’s minds, but will not win their hearts and or touch their souls. And all three are necessary to make Social Business a sustainable success.

Therefore I think we need a balanced approach. We need to cater for the producers (who want to have an ROI, now), for the directors (who see the big picture of the company’s future), and for a broad and diverse audience.  The artists behind inspiring movies can show us  how to achieve this balance: We need to combine extraordinary skills, a sound understanding of value drivers, a passion for creating, an imagination that sees the future beauty in what’s just emerging, and the firm belief that we are doing the right thing at the right time.

To reach mainstream, we need to talk mainstream

As a communications professional, I’m intrigued by the ongoing discussion on “Enterprise 2.0″ versus “Social Business”. The battlegrounds in this  war of words are Twitter, the blogosphere, and more recently the  2.0 Adoption Council and Quora.

When I first came across the discussion last year (while following tweets from the Enterprise 2.0 – sic! – Conference in Santa Clara), I immediately took the side of Enterprise 2.0. That’s because I am very familiar with the existing definition of Social Business by Mohammad Yunus. At the moment this definition is still the only one published in Wikipedia – although there were discussions to include the new one.

From a communications point of view, it’s a bad idea to use the label of phenomonon A to also describe phenomenon B – especially if those two can appear in a similar context. However, it’s not unheard of. All languages I know are full of homonyms.

After a closer look into the discussions, I realized that familiarity with the “traditional” meaning of social business is not as ubiqitous as I thought. Maybe I just know it because BASF was the first chemical company to set up a social business with Mohammad Yunnus’ Grameen Bank. The term also seems to be more widely used in Europe than in the U.S. This would explain why I heard objections to using it for “the thing formerly known as Enterprise 2.0″ from French thought leaders Isabelle Ayel and Bertrand Duperrin.

What if we can ignore ignore the possible confusion of ideas? Let me contribute my communications expertise to the #e20 vs. #socbiz discussion. One of my mantras in communication is “first consider your target group, then set your objective – and you’ll know what to do”.

In my opion, the current discussion – fascinating as it is – may be irrelevant because it is lead by the experts.

They were crucial for establishing the term Enterprise 2.0 (which I still passionately love, don’t get me wrong). However, now the beautiful movement we help to create is aiming at mainstream – and therefore the experts are no longer the main target group. If we want to reach mainstream, we need to talk mainstream.

And for this, the term “Enterprise 2.0″ is just not good enough. Yes, to us #e20/#socbiz evangelists, it conveys the full concept: Using social software internally (and in a more advanced stage also externally) as an enabler for transforming an organization to a more open, networked, sharing, collaborative, innovative, agile and successful enterprise.

However, that’s not what happens in our main target group: When Joe Average – and Tony Top-Executive – hear “Enterprise 2.0″, they think of IT. Or, even worse, they imagine something that may be hip, but is also technical, nerdy, difficult to understand. This does not help to drive adoption. And it’s misleading because, as I blogged earlier, it’s not about technology.

So, first recommendation from a communications (and biological) perspective: allow the term “Enterprise 2.0″ to be slowly overtaken by evolution.

Does that mean a recommendation to – from now on – start using the term “Social Business” for what we are doing? I can’t say I immediately took to the new term. I find it rather fuzzy (just look at the various definitions of social on the web). Therefore, I would have preferred something like Connected Enterprise, Networked Organization. On the other hand, the fuzziness could even help  because it gives us the freedom to position the term as we see fit.

Here comes the second communications recommendation: We should decide for one new term worldwide, consider it as empty container and fill it with substance.

Basically, you can do this with any term – if you put enough effort into it. In the Quora discussion, Estaban Kolsky suggested “Sally”.  If you consider that impossible – just think about “Apple”. But since we do not have Steve Job’s marketing department at our hands, why not make our lives easier and go for Social Business?

There are some very good ideas how to fill this term with content that will help to drive change in the mainstream. Just check out these excellent blog entries by Graham Hill, Jay Deragon, Rawn Shah, Luis Suarez, Oscar Berg, and Ray Wang. To get a taste of real mainstream, I recommend this CIO article by Heidi Ambler.

But before we all get carried away, be warned: No matter how well we fill the term “Social Business” with content, it’s no the silver bullet for every audience. It will indeed be helpful for a broad audience. If you work for a company and want to facilitate your colleagues’ transition to “what-we-are-getting-to-know-as-social-business”, even the new term will not be good enough.

Third communications recommendation: With all the content of Social Business in mind, tailor your wording to your audience – and their position in the adoption lifecycle. This might involve coming up with new, more specific terms.

Take my company BASF as an example. Internally, we never talked about “Enterprise 2.0″. I only use this term when presenting at conferences. To stress the business value, we even avoided the adjective “social”. Our global, internal platform is an “Online Business Network”. It’s known under the name “connect.BASF” – because that’s exactly what it does.

Let it grow!

When building up the Enterprise 2.0 – do you trust organic growth or do you actively drive adoption? I’ve seen this question discussed in some blogs, and also heard it on the Enterprise 2.0 Summit 2010 in Frankfurt.

Let me give a botanical answer to this question. If “trust organic growth” means “build the platform and see what happens”, you will get the business equivalent of ruderal species. These are the first plants to colonize lands that have just been disturbed, e. g.  by a fire or construction activities. While this event overstrains the established plant population, some highly opportunistic species take the chance. You might compare them to the innovators in the Technology Adoption Lifecycle.  These specimens will be a tremendous help when your wiki, network,  etc. is all fresh and needs being populated. But they will not be enough.

When I think of organic growth, I don’t see a ruderal community of some fast growing plants. I see a healthy mixture of many different species, all thriving and flourishing. To get such a lush greenery, you actually have to do something!

Let it grow organically means prepare the soil, sow some carefully chosen seeds, maybe transplant some larger specimens, administer the right amount of water and fertilizer, make sure every plant gets enough sun, cut some shoots where necessary,  provide climbing trellises when needed – and let the plants do the rest. Don’t get impatient: grass does not grow faster if you pull!

Applied to the business, this means you can – and should – do a lot to drive organic growth. Every company is a different ecosystem. Here’s what we did at my company:

  • Preparing the soil: Instead of skipping the pilot, we made it a content pilot (as opposed to an IT pilot).
  • Seeding: We invited some key communities to the pilot and helped them create interesting conversations.
  • Transplanting established specimens: We approached stakeholders with existing stand-alone solutions and involved them into developing our network.
  • Water and fertilizer: We regularly share best practices and success stories. We also help to transfer communications and workflows to our network – this gives people a reason to use it.
  • Sun: Visible commitment from top management does wonders for user adoption!
  • Cutting shoots: Has not yet been necessary.
  • Provide trellises: We provide consulting and encourage exchange in regular face-to-face events.
  • Do not pull: Participation is voluntary.

If you want to know more details, check out this presentation. We have shared it on various occasions, the most recent was when I talked at the German Multimedia Congress in Stuttgart. The slides will be updated regulary, so it might be worth coming back from time to time.

Considering that we only started real cultivation a little more than six months ago, our garden has thrived quite nicely up to now. Let’s see how far we can drive organic growth – I’m dreaming of a luxuriant park!

It’s not about technology – it’s about doing it the Enterprise 2.0 way

Yesterday I followed the live stream of the Enterprise 2.0 Conference in Santa Clara. I could not help comparing the event with the recent Enterprise 2.0 Summit in Frankfurt. I realize why many people had raved about the Summit as “so different from the American conferences – more a management conference than a vendor event”.

In Santa Clara, I was surprised to see that Tony Zingale, CEO of Jive Software, started his key note with an advertising clip. Generally speaking, I was a bit disappointed by the key notes shown on the live stream. Most of them came from software vendors (I missed the first one from the U. S. State Department). IMHO, these talks were a bit like sales presentations – and focused too much on their respective platforms.

Yes, I admit it, one of my mantras is “It’s not about technology”. At the Summit, I learned that T-Systems’ Frank Schoenefeld considers this as one of the seven pitfalls of Enterprise 2.0. He advised us to carefully select the technology, integrate it into the existing software stack,  teach and educate employees how to use the social software stack.

I agree, this is important. Still, for me technology is a “conditio sine qua non” – indispensable, but not enough! Or – as Oscar Berg put it – technology is the obstacle between the user and his goals.

I am very happy that the Enterprise 2.0 Summit covered all those aspects that matter much more than technology. For instance, take the first day’s key notes  on “Manager 2.0 – Key Elements of Leadership Concepts in an Enterprise 2.0“. Richard Collin started his speech with a very powerful statement: Enterprise 2.0 is not about applying Social Software to the enterprise. It’s a new model of doing business and managing a company.

In Enterprise 2.0, technology is merely an enabler for a cultural evolution. It can change the way we connect with our colleagues, share information, collaborate, manage projects, innovate, lead, create value. Ah, here’s one thing I liked in yesterday’s Jive clip: It helps us move from “me” to “us”.

When introducing “2.0″ to the Enterprise, we should position it as “a better way we work”. Better for the company, because it’s more efficient, opens new business opportunities and creates more value. And – even more attractive to our audience – better for YOU because it will make your tasks easier, help you feel appreciated and connected to your colleagues.

When planning communication for Enterprise 2.0, try to work out why your colleagues will FEEL GOOD when working in this new way. And don’t listen to anyone saying “they would feel good if they didn’t have to work”. You only need to know an unemployed person to understand that’s not true. We are social beings, and we want that the things we do make sense. That’s why “working the enterprise 2.0 way” appeals to us.

Last week, I learned that this can happen without any technology. I was invited to a workshop, together with 11 colleagues from very different units. Although most of us had no direct stakes in the workshop topic (“not in my target agreement”), and many of us had not met before, we managed to work out a great result and even committed to doing a follow-up. The success factors may sound familiar to you:

  • At the beginning, we worked out why the topic is vital for our company – and why we personally feel passionate about it
  • The organizers made it clear that we were picked not because of our job description, but because of our experiences and diverse approaches to the topic
  • The moderator created a collaborative spirit

At the end, we realized that we had worked “the Enterprise 2.0 way” – without ever logging into our platform.

Enterprise 2.0 Summit – some key learnings

This blog is still “in statu nascendi”, stimulated by the Enterprise 2.0 Summit in Frankfurt. What a great event, absolutely energizing and inspiring! I’ll try to share my thoughts and conclusions here, bit by bit. Let’s start with some key learnings:

  • Enterprise 2.0 is not limited to applying Social Software to the enterprise. It’s a new way of doing business and managing a company.
  • If Social Software is introduced to a company, usage patterns evolve: First people try the new tools, then they gradually modify their communication and interaction, until (if you’re successful) they finally integrate the software into their business processes.
  • Integration of existing business processes is a key success factor for early adoption. If you do not achieve this, people will perceive your Social Software as “extra work coming on top” and – even if they use it – you will end up with more silos.
  • After having successfully established some existing business processes to your social software, you can start facilitating the emergence of totally new ways of doing business – lightweight processes with human intelligence thrown in. This can transform the way we work and create even more value.
  • Cultural or organizational change is seen as essential. I agree, that’s what will happen if we are successful. However, I would still not talk to people about change. Most of them do not care for change, it scares them. BUT: they care for improvement, so that’s what we should talk about.
  • Convincing is not the right strategy for an Enterprise 2.0 Manager. If you feel people need convincing, just move on.
  • Cultural differences need to be considered – but they can also be used as an excuse. You need to look carefully.
  • There is no easy way around language barriers. You need to find the right balance between corporate “lingua franca” and local languages for local content.
  • You should not, under any circumstances, underestimate the need for education and guidance. However, this will probably happen in the early phase of Enterprise 2.0 adoption. Due to the exploratory nature of the game, you cannot prepare everything in advance. Just don’t despair and develop it as you go.
  • When it comes to information protection, we tend to overestimate the risks of new channels and underestimate the risks of the existing ones. If you empower people by education, you will find that a culture of trust is safer than a culture of control.
  • After successful adoption inside the enterprise, the inclusion of partners and customers are logical next steps towards a more mature Enterprise 2.0.

Kudos to all the brilliant people at the Summit who helped me learn. This summary in particular was inspired by Richard Collin, Samuel Driessen, Frank Schoenefeld, Bertrand Duperrin, Luis Suarez, Oscar Berg, and Lee Bryant.