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!


10 responses to “Let it grow!

  1. Pingback: Empower People – Votre réseau social : une belle fleur qui pousse seule si on en prend bien soin

  2. Hello Cordelia,

    You write: “Preparing the soil: Instead of skipping the pilot, we made it a content pilot (as opposed to an IT pilot).” What would be an example of a content pilot?

    Thanks. John

    • Hi John,

      what I refer to as an “IT pilot” is what lead to the recommendation to “skip the pilot”: You set up the platform, invite a small group of people to test it, and if they manage to reach their business objective with the platform, then you give “green light” for the rollout.

      In many cases, this did not work. Size (= number of users) does matter in networking platforms. Therefore it is unlikely that you can reach ambitious business objectives with a small group. Your pilot users will realize this during the pilot, and then focus on the IT side. They click around, give you feedback on bugs or change requests – and when you finally launch the platform, the content is not attractive.

      What I call a content pilot (I’m afraid I made that word up, the web only knows this as the name of a company :-)) is focused on seeding attractive content prior to the launch. This can be user profiles of people others like to follow, helpful documents, interesting forum discussions, wiki pages, etc.

      In our project, we made sure to invite representatives of important communities – from various regions. They uploaded attractive content and so “prepared the ground” for the the launch. When the new people came in, they already found some interesting stuff related to various topics. This made it easier for them to contribute.

      Hope this helps. Cordelia

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