I said yesterday that I think there are increasing signs that Web 2.0 in business — aka Enterprise 2.0 — has turned the corner into a practical phase. Both Stowe Boyd and Andrew McAfee pick up that same theme in recent blog posts.
Andrew’s post is here. In it he explores the ways in which the Web 2.0 sensibilities of Generation Y (or millennials, or the Facebook Generation, however you prefer to refer to them) that are manifesting themselves in business in the form of Enterprise 2.0 fare when they encounter the established business practices of the Fortune 500 — that is, traditional management structure and practice. As Enterprise 2.0 captured peoples’ imaginations, many people began to predict a sea change in business management styles. No more hierarchies, democratized decision making instead of management decrees, free-flowing organizational structure. What Andrew points out in his analysis, though, is the that rather than the new styles replacing the old styles, what’s really happening is a blending of the styles. There are practices that long predate Enterprise 2.0 that are still valid and necessary for good business management and there are parts of Enterprise 2.0 practice that add great value to an organization when they co-exist with existing practices. Democratized decision making, for example doesn’t have to mean that management hands over control over decision making to the employees on everything, but surely there’s a more effective way to make decisions than having a small group of senior execs who only talk to each other. A blended approach would be to open up the dialogue to include more voices from more places within the enterprise to inform the decision making that still may occur in the office of the CEO.
The idea that the established practices can still be valid comes through very strongly in Stowe Boyd’s interview with Joe Schueller of Proctor & Gamble. Schueller is a strong proponent of Enterprise 2.0 enhancements to business practice, but he points out the P&G has 170 years of business practice under its belt, most of it still valid. What P&G wants to do with Enterprise 2.0 is not use it as an excuse to discard that 170 years of experience, but use it as a tool that better connects employees to that aggregated experience.
The Gartner Hype Cycle comes to mind as I think about Enterprise 2.0′s shift from idealistic to practical. New ideas entering the market consciousness tend to rocket up to the rarified heights of the Peak of Inflated Expectations. When people realize the idea is not ready to deliver as promised, the idea plummets into the Trough of Disillusionment. Many ideas die there and are never heard from again. But others, the valid ones, claw their way out of the trough and onto the Plateau of Productivity, a much more subtle slope than the Peak of Inflated Expectations, but a much more realistic one. It’s on the Plateau of Productivity where you see the once hyped idea begin to yield measurable benefit.
Where is Enterprise 2.0 in the hype cycle? A few posts ago I talked about the growing acknowledgment by the Enterprise 2.0 thought leaders that the idea hasn’t taken root as quickly as they’d predicted it would and today I’m talking about that same group recognizing that Enterprise 2.0′s real value is in blending with the parts of established practice that remain valid and can be made better with the addition of new practices. To me, that looks like Enterprise 2.0 stepping out of the Trough and toward the Plateau. Perhaps I overstate it and E2.0 is still climbing the Slope of Enlightenment. What do you say? We can argue the subtleties of placement, but it does seem to me we’re about to see an increase in the practical ideas for how to really make Enterprise 2.0 work.