Enterprise 2.0 – Organizational & People Readiness

Enterprise 2.0 promises to offer wonderful new ways to connect and collaborate inside and outside the enterprise. However, to realize the true benefits of a Wiki Workplace we need to  factor in organizational [ primarily to do with "support structures" to foster collaboration, senior management involvement etc.,] and people readiness. Here is my attempt at defining a people/organizational readiness framework for Enterprise 2.0.

There are four levels in the People/Organizational readiness stack.

  • Dysfunctional
  • Resistant
  • Threshold
  • Organic

Typically, organizations would fall into one of these quadrants.



At this level there is low people and organizational readiness for enterprise wide adoption of Enterprise 2.0  technologies. Employee engagement at work is usually low. There are no incentive schemes in place to encourage collaboration.These enterprises also have a history of series of change management mishaps in spite of making a sincere attempt to drive change.

There are a number of organizational barriers to communication including managers who are not willing to let go of command & control, lack of commitment from the senior management, ill-defined or undefined virtual team structures, roles and responsibilities. There is a serious lack of alignment of enterprise vision,mission and values with individual/team objectives. The political climate and power structure in the organization are not conducive for effective decision making to happen.


There is high organizational readiness but low people readiness. Typical causes include a disengaged workforce that is unwilling to learn, managers who are not willing to let go of command & control and turf war. There is poor alignment of enterprise vision,mission and values with individual/team objectives. In some there may be high attrition rates.

There may be innovative HR policies and systems in place with little or no impact on driving change. There are well defined virtual team structures,roles and responsibilities. Leadership building at multiple levels to foster a collaborative culture happens though the impact is low. The political climate and power structure in the organization are conducive for effective decision making to happen. Historically, these enterprises would have faced significant change related challenges – typically signaled by an increasing change management budget with low returns.


There is low organizational readiness but high people readiness. I believe that a workforce that is at the threshold would be more open to change as compared to that in the Resistant phase . Organizations at this level can expect significant adoption and use of virtual collaboration tools provided they address organizational barriers. For instance, managers across business units may be willing to collaborate,but existing compensation/bonus schemes may encourage knowledge hoarding and hence inhibit collaboration. The political climate in the organization may not conducive for effective decision making to happen.There is no conscious effort to train managers on new ways of leadership that reflect new ways of working.

Work gets done by employees through informal networks. Individuals/Groups use existing collaborative tools in innovative ways and there is major proportion of the workforce that is using existing tools . Employees are engaged at work and there is significant alignment of enterprise mission,vision and values with individual & team objectives. However, there are no or very minimal HR policies/systems in place that encourage collaboration at work.  Community leaders tend to emerge from the fringes and play a key role in sustaining communities through sheer determination.There are a number of communities of practice that are purely bottom-up with no organizational support. Hence, they have very little enterprise wide impact in most cases. In some cases organizations tend to intervene and “manage” communities leading to their demise.Historically,change management efforts in other enterprise wide initiatives would have achieved desired results.[Eg.New Technology/Process Adoption,New Behavioral competencies,New Leadership styles etc.,].


At this level there is both organizational and people readiness for change. Enterprises can absorb substantial amounts of change with minimal effort from formal entities. There is very strong alignment of enterprise mission,vision and values with individual & team objectives indicating that the organization has succeeded in disseminating its vision, mission and values at all levels. Employee engagement at work is usually high and there are innovative work practices that foster a collaborative work culture.

Incentive schemes at this level of maturity would be at the "golden mean". Typically, these schemes rely on peer recognition and self-satisfaction. This is augmented with more tangible incentives that are neither too less nor too much. Too much of reliance on tangible incentives would mean people may steal knowledge and credit. Too less of it may dampen the inherent willingness of people to collaborate.There are well defined virtual team structures, roles and responsibilities.Enterprises at this level encourage transparent and open discussion of issues of interest to employees. The political climate in the organization is conducive for effective decision making to happen. Leadership building and training happens at all levels to embrace new ways of working.

Enterprises at this level have enterprise wide communities of practice that seamlessly augment formal teams. Informal Communities are recognized by the enterprise and there are support structures for these as well. Organic enterprises realize that “managing” change top-down has its limitations. They have a deep understanding of the social dimensions of collaboration. Communities Of Practice become a typical way to drive change bottom-up. I believe that in the long run with the right organizational structures and incentives in place – Change should manage itself.


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KM Adoption & Human Social Behavior

Seth Godin  wrote about the "Hobby Economy"  couple of years back and said :

"More and more people are spending more and more time (and money) on pursuits that have no pay off other than satisfaction."

This is as intriguing to enterprise KM strategists as it is to economists. As we go about designing  rewards and recognition schemes for enterprise KM/Collaboration programs, what is the right balance to strike? We have known for long enough that intrinsic reputation is as important as tangible rewards. Now there is serious research evidence to corroborate this. A recent article in Neuron says that social approval lights up the same regions of the brain as monetary rewards. Here is a summary of the research:

Despite an increasing focus on the neural basis of human decision
making in neuroscience, relatively little attention has been paid to
decision making in social settings. Moreover, although human social
decision making has been explored in a social psychology context, few
neural explanations for the observed findings have been considered. To
bridge this gap and improve models of human social decision making, we
investigated whether acquiring a good reputation, which is an important
incentive in human social behaviors, activates the same reward
circuitry as monetary rewards. In total, 19 subjects participated in
functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) experiments involving
monetary and social rewards. The acquisition of one’s good reputation
robustly activated reward-related brain areas, notably the striatum,
and these overlapped with the areas activated by monetary rewards. Our
findings support the idea of a “common neural currency” for rewards and
represent an important first step toward a neural explanation for
complex human social behaviors.

You can see a related video here :

This is a very important finding which will have implications on many dimensions of KM in enterprises. Given that we know that reputation does play a very important role, it would be interesting to ponder over the following questions:

  • What does the CKO do to bring in the right balance of rewards and recognition?
  • Again for the CKO : What are the cultural aspects to be considered for the right kind of recognition systems?
  • How do Enterprise 2.0 consultants and UI folks design enterprise KM systems seamlessly incorporate "social approval"?  [ Lots to learn from the Web 2.0  world !!]

Enterprise 2.0 – Unleashing The Collective

Many of the Enterprise 2.0 discussions tend to begin and end with blogs and wikis predominantly. Enterprise 2.0 holds as much promise to improve knowledge sharing within organizations as it does to improve knowledge creation. The Collective as defined by Thomas Vander Wal holds the key to unleash effective knowledge sharing within organizations. At the heart of both the collective and collaborative is the idea of a social object. This post explores one possible way KM/collaboration strategists can leverage the collective and improve knowledge sharing within enterprises.

At a high level the strategy will include the following :

  • Understand Online Behavioral Patterns Outside Work
  • Use Low Cost Probes To Identify These Social Objects
  • Identify Social Objects That Have "Maximum Gravitational Pull"
  • Unleash The Collective Around Social Objects That Matter
  • Build Bridges Between The Old And The New

Understand Online Behavioral Patterns Outside Work

It makes sense to look at the average age of your workforce and the demography in general  to understand how they are using tools in the consumer internet to reach out to friends and family.
You could map out those behavioral patterns, understand organizational objectives pertaining to collaboration/KM and then explore the right kind of tools for deployment. The outcome of this should be a deep understanding of the kind of social objects people are creating outside work. For instance, in the company I work for, roughly 30% of the workforce is on Orkut. An Orkut "Scrap" is a social object that people are very used to outside work. What does this mean to enterprise KM/Collaboration strategists?

Use Low Cost Probes To Identify These Social Objects

I don’t have empirical evidence to back this up my experience has been
that there seems to be some relationship between social objects and
organizational culture. For instance in the company I work for, Social
Q&A has grown at an unbelievable pace  while document collaboration
is yet to take off. It is important to quickly iterate and identify the
right social objects that are likely to improve knowledge sharing
within the enterprise. Perhaps these are questions or micro blog entries or discussion forum entries.

Identify Social Objects That Have "Maximum Gravitational Pull"

Understanding online behavior and affinity towards certain social objects presents the opportunity for enterprise KM strategists to evolve a KM/Collaboration strategy around similar social objects within the enterprise.  From the list of all potential social objects identify ones that have maximum gravitational pull. The balance to strike is to identify social objects that have maximum gravitational pull from the end user perspective and at the same time have maximum organizational impact from a knowledge sharing perspective.

Unleash The Collective Around Social Objects That Matter

Enterprise Social Q&A platforms, Enterprise Microblogging
platforms and plain old discussion forums surface different dimensions
of what an enterprise knows collectively. These are not necessarily
collaborative in nature. These are nice examples of  platforms that
enable "collective social
interaction" as Thomas Vander Wal calls it. From a KM perspective, the
collective is as important as the collaborative. The Collective is made
up of "information affinity" based social networks. I either find
someone else subscribing to a feed of my bookmarks or someone
responding to my question and hence we share some affinity towards
subject matter X. Questions become social objects – and this together
with answers,comments, feeds and tags unravel hidden social networks.
Similarly, microblog entries are social objects. In many cases
unleashing the collective has a tremendous impact on knowledge sharing
in the organization. I see collaboration as a catalyst for knowledge
creation and is not necessarily a pre-requisite for knowledge sharing
to happen.

Build Bridges Between The Old And The New

There are usually one or two tools that the workforce uses heavily. Predominantly it is email, though it could be  IM or perhaps even your  company bulletin board. When you work on an adoption strategy it is extremely important to explore ways of making use of the attention in these sweet spots. There are a number of ways of doing this – Some examples:

  • Notifications of updates in wikis/blogs/social Q&A platforms through email/IM
  • Allowing blog posts through email/IM
  • Allowing posting questions to a social Q&A platform via email/IM

Social Q&A Platforms In Enterprises

Larry Irons quotes Stewart Mader on the potential use of wikis in onboarding people.  While I agree that wikis could be a key enabler in such a scenario, they are not sufficient. If we were to look at onboarding as a knowledge management problem, there are three major things we need to attack:

  1. Give newbies in the team a safe environment to lurk, listen and learn from those who have been in the team/organization for a while.
  2. Give them the right tools to find out who knows what, whom to turn to when they
    have a problem and general team dynamics – Essentially to help them understand
    how work gets done in the team.
  3. Enable social proprioception in the team. Clive Thompson wrote
    about the idea of social proprioception sometime back. He says like
    proprioception which is the body’s ability to know where the limbs are,
    social proprioception enabled by tools like Twitter gives a group of people a sense of itself, making possible weird, fascinating feats of coordination. [emphasis mine]
    Social proprioception is extremely crucial for teams and more so for virtual teams. Tools
    like Twitter bring in a new dimension to the “signaling” aspect in
    Andrew McAfee’s SLATES model for Enterprise 2.0.

I believe there is a need for an ecosystem which first allows people to ask questions – specifically in the context of onboarding and also in the larger context. "Asking questions" is an intrinsic part of human nature. Social Q&A platforms ,Microblogging platforms within enterprises [ read Yahoo Answers and Twitter  for the enterprise] and even plain old discussion forums can play a very important role here. Most of one’s knowledge needs begin with questions like "Where can I find information on HR benefits for my position?" or "Whom do I speak to clarify this clause on Sarbanes Oxley?" and so on. Questions come first and people need a place to post this. Answers may point to Wikis/Blogs/Expert Profile Pages and so on. We need to put conversations before content.