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The secret to success with Enterprise 2.0 ...

... isn't to try to make people change ... it is to do something that can't already be done.

Don't try to get your powerful people to behave differently - they have everything to lose. Don't try to improve your existing processes - you will be seen to be breaking something.

Focus instead on the things that are desperately trying to happen but aren't and the people who are desperately trying to connect but can't. Do things that make the impossible possible and your success rate will soar.

References (2)

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  • Response
    This blog post talks about how my company, ERM (www.erm.com) uses Enterprise2.0 to address real business issue affect the business such as global economic recession
  • Response
    A good change management model is always useful in situations like these. Nice article.

Reader Comments (17)

IMO sensible, concise and practical advice that is actionable.

The "area" of activity of which you speak used to be called innovation, I think .. or here and there "repair" or coming back from a catastrophic product or service.

Then again, the odd time behaving differently or breaking something does lead to progress, and maybe even innovation, no ?

September 14, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterJon H.

I don't think I said breaking things was a bad thing!

September 14, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterEuan

Reminds me of advice a young partner in PwC gave me. He was into change and how to embed it. He was also into Enterprise 2.0: "Follow the energy". What you say about focussing on the things that are desperate to happen reminds me of that.

September 14, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterCormac Heron

I'd add only one thing: You'll never get permission to do the impossible. You have to have a 'cover story'. Get management's permission to do something that management believes can be done, then deliver something brilliantas a by-product.

September 14, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterGordon Rae

You are in good company, Euan. Here's a quote from the HBS Working Knowledge site today (http://hbswk.hbs.edu/item/6156.html):

"Online social networks are most useful when they address real failures in the operation of offline networks," says Piskorski.

September 14, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterMark Gould

Great post. I agree with Gordon - sometimes, you need to disguise it as "doing X in a better way," which opens the doors to enabling the new. Also, if you've got a traditional/closed culture, co-opting existing work behaviors to effect the change you want can work well, too.

September 14, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterGia Lyons

Agreed. We have had great success with gaining adoption by innovating around existing processes. There are tons of cracks out there, waiting to be filled.

September 14, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterNate Nash

Excellent stuff - there's too much focus on change which can unnecessarily overwhelm folks if you don't use it sparingly

September 14, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterSameer Patel

I would add that the acceptance of change is strongly tied to the perception of change, meaning if "you will be seen (perceived) to be breaking something." change will turn into a code word for unnecessary/extreme/uncomfortable, but if you "make the impossible possible" (and add value to an organization) change will be perceived as exciting/necessary/useful/in line with organizational behavior.

September 14, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterSascha Ohler

Charles Handy once said / wrote that "what is in fashion / fashionable" was responsible for a great deal of actual (eventual) change.

One wonders when real and sustainable innovation and responsiveness will become "fashionable" ?

September 14, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterJon H.

Euan, Your blog post prompted me to update my blog: http://bonniecheuk.blogspot.com
I ended my blog with these few paragraphs:

"It is very easy to unintentionally bring the bad face-to-face meeting design online. Think about the last time you attended a face-to-face meeting when a group of enthusiastic participants took turns to voice their comments (but not really listening to one another), and another group of staff were silent and too shy to voice their thoughts. Without good meeting design, communication and facilitation procedures, none of the participants felt they personally connect with the issues discussed, as a result leaving the 'talking-shop' meeting unsatisfied or feeling it was a total waste of time.

How can we avoid replicating this kind of experience online? It is down to the Enterprise 2.0 design. It has to be carefully thought out. If it is done nicely, the employees will have a great experience. I wonder how many of the Enterprise2.0 designers out there seriously think about facilitating great online conversation (beyond aiming at getting more people to contribute)?

Could the answer be the secret recipe to success for Enterprise 2.0?"

September 16, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterBonnie Cheuk

I'm not sure what you mean by "Enterprise 2.0 design" Bonnie but certainly people's behaviours towards each other matter and cultivating mutual respect is very important. One good thing is that online conversations can often favour those who are maybe less confident face to face.

September 17, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterEuan

Nice, elegant post.

However, perhaps you can offer specifics on how to "make the impossible possible?" Seems easier said than done.

September 17, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterMichael Krigsman

I might have agreed with you Michael if I had said "make the impossible happen" but making it possible is about removing the blocks that organisations often put in the way.

September 17, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterEuan

Euan. I agree we need to use E2.0 to do things that make the impossible possible. The question is how? By E2.0 design, I mean can we focus not just using E2.0 to increase the amount of user generated content and promote spontaneous talk, can we move beyond this stage and start to design E2.0 by introducing communication procedures and expectations for leaders/employees to allow them to feel comfortable to agree and disagree and to listen to one another?

If the design is right, the leaders, the employees would not feel you are trying to change them. They feel the E2.0 tools allow them to be themselves, and through the online exchange, they learn from one another and they use what they learn to change themselves.

September 19, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterBonnie Cheuk

Great post and comments. Would like to offer supporting argument: "change" implies that there is an old way / existing way of working. If this old way of working can't be switched off because it awaits the gradual ramp up of the enterprise 2.0 way of doing things it will stay a fall back option preventing the new way from taking off successfully.

September 20, 2009 | Unregistered Commentergillis jonk

Very true Gillis. Thankfully the old way of doing things is, in many cases, collapsing under its own weight, but I agree there are times when collectively agreeing to switch off old systems and stop old ways of doing things helps speed up change.

September 20, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterEuan

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