"Some tipping point has been reached with enterprise 2.0," explained Andrew McAfee, a Principal Research Scientist from the Center for Digital Business, MIT Sloan School of Management, at this year's Enterprise 2.0 conference in San Francisco.
McAfee explained that while he used to see potential customers approach enterprise tools with skepticism, he's recently noticed a significant shift in attitude. In 2009 alone, McAfee's seen apprehension migrate to some flavor of acceptance or resignation. And though he feels the shift is an overall positive one, in his book there are still a few pesky warning signs that have the potential to cause some struggle:
1. Saying our existing modes and tools will soon be obsolete
"It's a really bad sales strategy," McAfee claims, explaining that no matter how good or automated our new tools and offerings are, believing that hands-on management has become obsolete from organizations just doesn't fly. And though it may be easy or fun to relate to the Dilbert or the The Office view of the system—managers suck!—McAfee maintains the belief that doing so seriously is just silly and, "not right."
2. Walled gardens
With regard to media content, a walled garden refers to a closed or exclusive set of information services. Though they are intended to secure information, McAfee urges users to let them flourish.
"One of the deep reasons the Web works is because there is a web, not thousands of mini webs," he said. The argument is that letting walled gardens bloom allows interconnectivity by way of sharing information, tagging, linking, etc. As if the two entities would do best mirroring each other, McAfee says that keeping information totally hidden is not how the Web works, so why would we apply that way of thinking to the enterprise?
3. Accentuate negative tendencies
Like most, McAfee used to think it would be good to be super up front about the negative aspects of the enterprise and related issues, but recent developments have got him thinking differently. He delicately suggests that though vendors' intentions are in the right place, it's possible they are going to far with their worries:
"Down sides don't manifest themselves in practice that often. Risks are manageable, and scarier upfront than they are in practice."
4. Declare a war on e-mail
Though Google hasn't really addressed where Wave falls in the enterprise, the announcement of the tool has surely inspired a ton of solutions aiming to do away with e-mail. The general argument is that e-mail is outdated and a hassle, but McAfee points out how often people still use it. His example was illustrated by a photo of a woman checking her e-mail on her phone. "People need a way to narrate their work" he said, adding that people probably wouldn't be willing to get rid of their Blackberry either.
5. Fall in love with features
Wikipedia was built as a response to the question: "What is the simplest thing that could possibly work?" McAfee applies this question to the enterprise, stating: "The world does not want more bells and whistles!"
6. Overuse the word "social"
Like too many words in the English language, 'social' has taken on a handful of different meanings. Though most would probably agree that technically it's an accurate word when used to describe various enterprise solutions, the implications are not always desirable.
"I have never come across a word that has more negative connotations to a busy pragmatic manager," said McAfee, explaining that he's seen many-a-boss assume that 'social' tools wouldn't help anything but employees talk too much and goof off.
Though McAfee didn't suggest a new or better word to use (collaboration? communities?) he finished the presentation with an interesting image choice to illustrate how some managers interpret the use of 'social' solutions: two dirty hippies hugging it out at Woodstock, surrounded by litter and despair.
The Think Tank
McAfee's list of no-no's probably raises a lot of eyebrows. After all, it's easy to get wrapped up in Google's way of thinking and some of the competition that's been born because of it is quite interesting.
Additionally, we're sure there's a handful of smaller companies that believe risks are just as scary in practice as they are in conversation, and don't even get us started on how much it makes us wince when we consider the number of people who think there's nothing better than solutions bloated with features.
But then again, perhaps a huge change in the norm is exactly what the enterprise needs. We think a lot of important conversation could be born from this list, so if you've got a sec, why not let us know what you think?