There is no Enterprise 2.0, there is your Enterprise 2.0.

by Gil Yehuda on November 19, 2009

in Enterprise 2.0

In one of the best-known scenes of The Matrix, a young boy in the garb of a monk reveals a stunning revelation to the main character – “There is no spoon“.  This concept is the fodder for many philosophical explorations into illusion, quantum physics, eastern religions, and scriptwriting.  It becomes clear as the movie progresses that the boy is actually right.  And only after disillusionment can one see more clearly — at least that’s the message.

I come to share a similar message — to demystify in order to provide more clarity.  So first let me expose the mythology that I beginning to hear in my industry.  The myth is that there is this state of being called “Enterprise 2.0″ that a collection of experts are very familiar with and have found to be the place of business goodness.  For a reasonable fee, the expert will arrive at your company or your conference location and set up operations.  The operations then take the following form:

I will share tons of information with you — much of which may not be relevant to you, but will sound impressive nonetheless.  You will listen in awe.  And to the extent that you can understand what I know and translate it into action in your environment, you will then have a good chance of understanding this wonderful vision of Enterprise 2.0, of which I speak.

Of course, no one says these words, but it sure sounds like it to me.  I detect this in the peculiar patterns of doublespeak.  Such as the constant reminder that “it’s really important that you do X first” where X = the current topic.   I hear the message “You have to make sure to involve HR very early in the project, because E2.0 can have a profound impact on the organization, and they will want a say in that.”  This is then followed 2 slides later with: “You have to make sure to involve Legal and Risk very early in the project, because they could be a barrier.”  Then later on, “Remember, you have to make sure that the business goals drive the project, so make sure you start the project with the Business goals.

Um, how about we start with everything, and then we’ll be done with the project?

The related doublespeak pattern is  ”Remember, Enterprise 2.0 is really about Y“, where Y= the opposite of the question asked.  ”Sure you could replace your newsletter with a blog, but remember, Enterprise 2.0 is really about the conversation, not the medium.”  The most common form of this is You know Enterprise 2.0 is not about the tools, its about the culture.” and then a few moments later you’re back to “You have to make sure to involve IT very early in the project, because it can really impact the schedule.

Here’s the unfortunate part:  These patterns of nonsense are uttered by people who are smart and experienced.  Many actually know what they are talking about.  They simply neglected to listen carefully to their message and understand what their audience is hearing them say.  Each sentence is valid.  But the whole package is flawed because their context keeps shifting.  In some cases E2.0 is about the tools, and in some cases it’s not.  Some clients should have included HR first, and others don’t need to.  So they are never factually wrong, they are simply contextually inconsistent — this breeds confusion, and is based on lack of good listening skills.  And this was a significant part of the message I delivered at the E2.0 Summit last week.

The solution is surprisingly simple:  Let us first recognize that there is no Enterprise 2.0.  The myth of a destination that experts can guide you to is an illusion.  Instead let’s understand that there is your Enterprise 2.0.  Every organization is on a path – somewhere.  And “2.0″ implies improvement and evolution.  The Enterprise 2.0 vision implies that organizations are benefiting from new tools and behaviors inspired by new ways we create and share information using social-channels and emergent platforms (using McAfee’s terms here).  I wholeheartedly agree with this vision, as I have seen it play out in many environments (thanks to my personal experiences and professional research activities).  But I do not believe the vision is that all companies have the same evolution, the same needs, or the same vision for their 2.0.

In other words, Company1′s plan will differ from Company2′s plan because of the many differences between the two companies — differences in maturity, need, market, ambition, personality, or any host of differences.  So consultants need to stop with the doublespeak and start with the doublelisten!  I call this Listen Twice.

  • First, listen to what your client says they need.  I was inspired by reading “The Trusted Advisor” on my flight to Germany last week.  In it the authors remind us that we find it deceptively easy to listen for recognizable patterns, and we are so eager to please that we jump on the familiar.  But a good consultant listens for the differences.  It is those differences that allow you to make your real contribution, and those are the areas that make the projects challenging.
  • Second, listen to what your client hears you say.  You may be amazed to find that they hear you say things that you did not think you said.

My advice to my E2.0 colleagues is to listen carefully to their messaging and notice the doublespeak patterns.  You can’t make everything important and put everything first.  Instead:  understand the unique challenges in each project.  Then put first that which needs to be put first for them.  Emphasize the importance of the elements that are truly important to them — which you will only know after you listen very carefully to them.

My advice to my clients who are trying to decipher the message you hear from the blogosphere — let me suggest that you seek trusted advisors — people who behave in the manner described in the book I mentioned above.  These consultants will take the time to listen and understand your unique journey to your “2.0″ success.

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{ 17 comments… read them below or add one }

1 flobog71 March 3, 2011 at 9:01 am

Bei Enterprise 2.0 geht es nicht um die ESSP's, sondern um die Kultur. via @gyehuda


2 Ellen Feaheny December 28, 2010 at 6:47 pm

RT @bhc3: There is no Enterprise 2.0, there is your Enterprise 2.0. by @gyehuda > A nice riff on Matrix scene #e20


3 Jesse Wilkins, CRM December 24, 2010 at 5:13 pm

RT @bhc3: There is no Enterprise 2.0, there is your Enterprise 2.0. by @gyehuda > A nice riff on Matrix scene #e20


4 Bryce Williams December 24, 2010 at 4:37 pm

RT @bhc3: There is no Enterprise 2.0, there is your Enterprise 2.0. by @gyehuda > A nice riff on Matrix scene #e20


5 Hutch Carpenter December 24, 2010 at 4:19 pm

There is no Enterprise 2.0, there is your Enterprise 2.0. by @gyehuda > A nice riff on Matrix scene #e20


6 Jacob Saaby Nielsen December 23, 2010 at 11:50 pm

+1 RT @gyehuda Thanks RT @bricejewell wisdom from @gyehuda in this post is still spot on


7 Gil Yehuda December 23, 2010 at 11:43 pm

Thanks RT @bricejewell: Rethinking how I share my #socbiz advice, wisdom from @gyehuda in this post is still spot on


8 Brice Jewell December 23, 2010 at 7:52 pm

Rethinking how I share my #socbiz advice, and the wisdom from @gyehuda in this old post is still spot on


9 Ken Domen July 22, 2010 at 9:18 pm

There is no Enterprise 2.0, there is your Enterprise 2.0. | Gil Yehuda's Enterprise 2.0 Blog


10 Mike Gilronan December 6, 2009 at 11:48 am

Great post, Gil. Nice to go back to classics like Maister’s work and find how they are so timeless, regardless of how shiny the latest toy is.


11 Mario Paladini November 24, 2009 at 2:35 am

Good tips!
Two ears, ONE mouth…


12 Arno Hesse November 20, 2009 at 8:38 pm

Beautiful argument, Gil!
If the consultants and advisers listen more carefully to the clients and try to understand the problems they try to solve, the temptation for doublespeak will diminish. I’ve argued many times that change agents first bring some RESPECT the organizations current culture to the table before dismissing it. . Too often Enterprise 2.0 is treated like a technology answer in search of business questions. – While the business has already its question.
I see the Enterprise 2.0 meme as providing a useful occasion to examine if some newly available 2.0 tools can be helpful for solving the lingering business problems, whichever they may be in the given organization. No surprise, the tech vendors approach it through the tool lense. In the wave of their marketing efforts surf a lot of well-meaning consultants, may of which haven’t really walked in the shoes of their enterprise clients.


13 Gil Yehuda November 21, 2009 at 7:03 pm

Thank you Arno,
To your excellent point, I may have a slightly different perspective than some other consultants, since I was an enterprise client before I became a consultant. Sorry if this sounds like I’m tooting my horn, but it does help provide me with some prospective. When I first started at Forrester, I saw dozens of E2.0 projects that were nothing like my Fidelity experiences – and then I realized that E2.0 is a multi-faceted concept – and no one case study can adequately describe another company’s needs. Now that I’m consulting (and getting much deeper into the specifics of my clients’ situations) I see that there are even more differences between E2.0 projects at many levels. So my conclusion so far (and message above) is to look for the differences and notice that each situation brings a unique challenge. This will help the clients (as well as the doublespeak).

I enjoyed your blog post you linked to — and I agree that we need to understand what the “resistance” is all about. More importantly — if labeling it as resistance is disrespectful and dismissive. You make a great point. Here too I think each situation adds color. In some cases there are real (legitimate) barriers to E2.0 behaviors that have to be understood as part of the business situation. In other cases, we find fear, misinformation, turf-battles, and other non-productive behaviors are poisoning the company. So it’s not so clear cut. Again, each situation is so different that it gets to be difficult to make a sweeping statement. But we do the best we can to convey meaning and share valuable perspectives.

Last point to share: I recall seeing a blog recently (forgive me, I forgot where – someone can kindly post the link) – which argued that companies want to “change”, but they don’t like it when “consultants want to change them”. This is something that consultants need to understand too. Sometime the resistance is to the consultant or the process, not to the outcome. So consultants need to step back and understand what their client hears them say — since they may learn that they are coming across as a pushy outsider, not a trusted partner.


14 Eric Posner November 20, 2009 at 11:19 am

Great post Gil. Throw away the cookie cutter, there are no exact matches there are always differences. Engaging with an active listening approach is sage advice.


15 Ryan Boyles November 19, 2009 at 10:49 pm

great great key point for anyone looking for a hurry up and “let’s do Web2.0″ in the workplace. you must consider specific goals and objectives before adding new tools or changing process.


16 Gil Yehuda November 20, 2009 at 8:38 am

Thanks, I think I’m taking the message “consider specific goals” even further. I’m finding that some of the E2.0 Illuminati are getting caught in doublespeak because they are crafting a simplified message of E2.0 as a destination that they can guide you to. If we realize that there is no single destination then we’ll be much better at articulating what is really important and for whom. So messages such as “Get IT involved early”, “Get HR involved early”, — which make no sense in aggregate, will make sense in specific application.

This means that consultants (like me and my peers) have to leverage the best of their consulting skills and add it to the best of their “2.0″ skills — both have their foundation in listening skills. This is doublelisten! It’s more than being goal-directed. It’s being a partner on the journey, not a signpost to the mirage.


17 Jon Husband November 19, 2009 at 12:43 pm

Excellent post .. no more one-model-fits-all.

Each org’n has different culture(s), different ways of working, different issues at different times.

Consultants and the internal ‘stewards’ of how an org’n works, learns, responds are going to have to be more like master tailors.


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