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Collaborative Culture, or the Real Enterprise 2.0

8 minute read
Deb Lavoy avatar

The "real" Enterprise 2.0 is not a technology or marketing plan, but the reinvention of the enterprise itself. It's a rethinking of the structure, process, culture and even, in some cases, the very purpose of the enterprise.

With technology erasing barriers to participation and communication, we're seeing a change in the nature of how we go about running an organization.

How Social Media Is Changing Enterprise 2.0

The phenomenon of social mediais starting to have a very significant impact on how we think aboutwork. We are starting to appreciate the efficacy of simpler, friendlierways of dealing with work, problem-solving and business. And this newparadigm is pouring into the enterprise via the business pundits, thenewly agile engineering team, the "social media experts" and old-fashioned necessity.

People who have thought about such thingsfor a long time will recall Senge's 5th Disciplineand Complexity Theory,and others who were on the fringe, but not the mainstream of corporatethinking.

The external, market-facing view of this gets a lot ofpress. Now we can ask customers about their ideas or what they know orsee. But the internal impact -- the way we work with each other and why -- is, perhaps, even more profound and likely to have a greater impact on most of our lives and careers.

Theshift whispers the notion that we are nearing the limit of what "commandand control" and "divide and conquer" organizational structures can do to create efficiency and productivity, and solveextremely complex, wicked problems. The complexity and pace of ourworld requires new approaches to understand and respond to the worldaround us. The decentralized, informal, seamless, easy, humanelements of the social media mindset are compelling on their own, andare beginning to be recognized for how well they work for work.

Thisrapid shift hints that together we can do so much more than we have sofar, that the best is yet to come. In other words, it is exciting.

Identifying the Pivot Points

Thechallenge when talking about the phenomenon of the real Enterprise 2.0 is that it is hard to naildown and describe the precise factors in play here. Nearlyeverything is subject to re-examination through this new, vague lense.Here are a few of the dominant themes, however:

1. The Power Shift From Information Hoarding to Sharing

Intraditional organizations, information is status and confers power. Inthe Enterprise 2.0, people are valued for how they share, not for whatthey have in the closet.

This means that your ability to recognize whereand when your information is valuable, and being recognized as areliable source confers more status. It marks you as more valuable, more influential and more powerful thana person who acts as a gatekeeper, implying greater knowledgeand insider status without inviting you to participate in thatknowledge. Those people are beginning to get a new label entirely. It'snot a nice one.

2. Replacing Perfection with Perfect Aspirations

Enterpriseshave, since the dawn of time, striven to portray themselves as perfectand infallible. It has always been considered a PR blunder to admit anyignorance or imperfection. Employees have been encouraged to show thesame polish and invulnerability as individuals.

These days, it's theenterprises that embrace their opportunities to improve that are ourheroes. It's the enterprises that cop to their mistakes, own them anddemonstrate the will to do better. Consider Dominos Pizza, Best Buy, Dell, Campbell's. They've all had major problems thatthey've owned up to and have come out as heroes. On the other hand, we have BP, for example, and how they handled their early responses to the fact that theycreated a natural catastrophe so large we can't even understand it. Theones who say "Yes, we've erred," and here's how we're doing better are theones that we respect. Not the ones who try to justify themselves or ignoreproblems.

Inside the enterprise the same is true. Theidea that we must not show vulnerability or imperfection is being replaced by the idea that only by exposing what is going wrong do we have a chance of doing greatthings. This is true both publicly and privately.

Learning Opportunities

3. Transparency

Oncewe've replaced the idea of perfection with aspiration, we allow ourcorporate selves to be more transparent -- at least, internally. It's nolonger required to share only the perfected and polished. We know for afact that once material is polished, people are reluctant to contributeand, even worse, we are less likely to be open to input. We are alreadytoo invested in what we have. So, in the information-hoarding,perfectionist enterprise we're encouraged to hide bad news and over-invest in new concepts before they're proven and without thebenefit of peer input and review. Because we don't want to look stupid.Ironic, no?

A transparent culture gives people permission to beimperfect. It gives them permission to share prior to completion, to seek out problems,and openly discuss and resolve them. In a transparent enterprise culture, we are allowed to highlight the areas ofignorance and weakness in order to learn and reinforce. This issometimes referred to as "fail fast." No, of course, we don't want tofail, but if there are going to be problems, we want to know about themearly, so we can respond and improve. I like to call that "the virtue ofgoing looking for trouble."

4. Participation

The flip side oftransparency is participation. These days, as we work on harder andharder issues that do not respond well to time-honored divide andconquer solutions, we need to engage people more holistically thanin the past. We need to create the opportunity for different viewpointsto be recognized and leveraged, so that we can solve harder problems. Oneof the great things about this new appreciation for participation isthat employees whose ideas are sought and valuedare much, much more committed to the success of the venture.

TowersPerrin haspublished a seminal study demonstrating the monetary value of suchengagement, and Daniel Pink has given us keen insight into how to accessand build that engagement. So we'restarting to see our intuition about the benefits of these issues maderigorous. It's not just that it makes us feel good. It makes usexcellent and profitable.

5. Leadership

Leaders (the real leaders) are now valued for their ability to frame the problem, engage theirteams and orchestrate action. It is a rare combination of confidenceand humility that the most effective leaders are recognized for.Charlene Li calls this Open Leadership, and has written a superb book onthe subject (see preview here). Mypresentation on a similar subject ishere.

6. Collaboration

Andwhen we add this all up, we are developing a more effective model ofthe organization, one in which collaboration plays a major role. We knowthat a collaborative team is magical, with endless energy and focus, able to tackle any objective. The strengths of collaborative team members are amplified andtheir weaknesses diminished by the virtue of their collaboration. Thereare 4 hallmarks of a collaborative team:

  1. Shared mission: Without a common goal, it is nearly impossible to form an effective team.
  2. Mutual respect: This is not about who's better. The team members mustnot be questioning each others competence or trying to demonstrate theirown.
  3. Trust: Mutual respect enables trust that allows for frankdiscussions and debates, focusing on the issues, not the people.
  4. Commitment to continual improvement and to each other.

Advice for the Skeptical or the Concerned

So what is the organization to do?

  1. What could your organization do if there were no barriers? Ifcoordination and collaboration were frictionless? If the organizationwas aligned, transparent and able to apply its complete capabilitiestoward solving challenges? It may be hard to get there in asingle step, but what if we could? Toy with that thought and you'llstart to see why the ideas are compelling.
  2. Eliminate fear, don't be afraid to learn. Learn = improve = admit there was room toimprove -- at either the individual or organizational level. (How to dothis is another 1500 words or more). Management by fear is less effective than management by orchestration and problemsolving.
  3. Recognize that you must have human resources on yourside to succeed. If your people are not a cohesive team, ask why. Isthere a well-understood common mission? Have people bought into it? Isthere mutual respect? Why or why not? (I realize that this is actuallyextremely difficult to do, but still well worth doing).
  4. This isnew and we - as a society and as an industry - are learning fast. Beprepared to think more openly and broadly about how to be successfulwith these new paradigms. Be prepared to learn, and be prepared for thepeople in your organization to learn in different ways and at adifferent pace. This is going to be interesting...

In conclusion:Command and control, divide and conquer -- these are all valuable tools that willendure, but they are no longer the only game in town. We are seeing the shift fromthinking that everything must be reviewed, decided and divided to theidea that the organization can collaborate, learn, contributeand, hence, address more and harder challenges. This shift is not goingaway, and that is a very good thing for all of us.

About the author

Deb Lavoy

Deb Lavoy is the founder and CEO of Narrative Builders — a consultancy that helps organizations build narratives that convey the power of their business, product or idea. She has been in the business of online, social and digital business for more than two decades.

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