Tuesday, November 07, 2006

How to Implement Web 2.0 In Practice? Write Some Wrongs (and Not Just in Theory)

Continuing from a few posts ago . . .

It's pretty much agreed that businesses will find it a competitive necessity to be fleet of foot strategically to survive the changes in the way the world (and in it, their customers) connect and are connected.

I have been researching case studies on how businesses actually use what people call Web 2.0 (in all the ways they define it). Andrew McAfee says there are so few that he and his crowd "are waiting to hear" from anyone who will offer up an example.

As long as a good idea only exists in theory, it probably won't go anywhere. And that would be a shame.

Not My Idea, But a Good One

After rereading Ross Mayfield, Nancy White, Valdis Krebs, Rob Cross and Ken Thompson, I realized that Andrew McAfee's Enterprise 2.0 will really only be the second step in at least a two-part process for companies that want to be more adaptable, creative, and innovative.

Companies need to establish a 2.0 culture before introducing wikis, tagging, and so on. McAfee's famous case study's follow-up is that the evangelist left who made the wikis work so well. Word has it that the excercise has not been doing so well ever since.

Hating Jargon, 2.0 Must Go

I use the term 2.0 here only as a nod to McAfee. McAfee is a very smart guy and knows his stuff. However, with all due respect to Mr. O'Reilly, jargon is only necessary to lend credibility to this project, and it's gone a bit out of control. It's important to acknowledge that we're really talking about behavior that works offline to build strong culture and community.

On the other hand, if throwing around numbers works to help you sell good ideas into your company, do what must be done by all means necessary.

To Date, Shifts in Culture Often Start with IT

The few case studies that exist on social networks begin in the tech department and spread outward because either 1. Techies are open to new toys and are comfortable with improvements through technological means; and 2. Techies can be a tight community that works together. The rest of the culture needs evangelizing.

But what if you start by changing the culture and then introduce the tools? Wouldn't that have more widespread application, both within and across companies?

Identify Those Who are Interested Anyway . . . In Everything

In one circumstance, I suggested to a friend that perhaps writers would be a place to build a test case. Big businesses often use writers across countries and industries to articulate the insights, discoveries, and brand of the sales force. This is often done in the form of marketing, too much under the Orwellian rubric, Thought Leadership.

Because of what they do, these writers often already have built far-flung networks. They know who is doing what, where, and when, and they often are used to write the script. Often, too, these people are naturally very interested in many topics and in meeting new people (or, in 2.0 language, building out their networks).

Here you've got a possibility of creating community among disparate departments through individuals who all have one thing in common (their job) and perhaps share common tendencies and interests. They also have a lot to gain by learning about each other's work.

Writers and Marketing: Undervalued, but Not News . . . Yet

The reason this hasn't happened yet, I'd wager, is that marketing is considered more a necessary evil than a value in most money-making ventures. I know this from experience but also because a techie friend told me this last week -- both she and her partner in a start-up are stuck in the habit of valuing only that which can be measured in terms of direct revenue.

Here's a way for the creative types to find a stronghold in their businesses -- become a case study. Show your multi-national corporations way to a 2.0 culture of community. The techies can then introduce some helpful tools, but there's a good chance they won't get buy-in without your lead.

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