Wednesday, 30 April 2008

Is web / enterprise 2.0 a bubble?

Anonymous commented on my post 'social connecting in business', suggesting that 2.0 is a bubble and that I should "pontificate new collaboration / interaction models in HR without bringing up web 2.0".

I don't think that 2.0 is a bubble, but I agree that other approaches are as important (possibly more so). I believe that if organisations see 'connecting' as the key issue, then this will guide their choices in technology and other areas, and avoid over-investment due to marketing hype.

I've been asking about this in Linkedin. Most people's answers seem to agree with both anonymous' and my own points, ie that 2.0 is largely hype, and that the key to avoid falling for this is to focus on connecting, on people rather than the technology:

"Jon, I think you are right about that concentrating on technology first is not the best approach. And I agree with Charles Caro that the whole concept of Web2.0 is just hype. The 2.0 should be applied to the people if you really want to apply it to anything. We maybe have better tools, but there is one constant, and that is the most important as I see: you talk, connect, communicate with people. And people are more or less the same as they were 10 or 20 years ago."

They also suggest that this will help businesses think more innovatively about the technology:

"I see a lot that businesses use Web2.0 technologies as a replacement for an existing tool - the blog replaces the newsletter for example. Again people are just using the innovation as a new delivery mechanism for fairly traditional content. The problem from an organisational perspective is that it is quite difficult for people to change both the 'what' and the 'how' of what they are doing. It can be tricky to get people to realise that completely new things are possible."

Some innovations will be successful, and others wont:

"With many more players involved there are more ideas on the table. Many will still be stupid, but some will be successful. Moreover, web effects will tend to be more and more similar to chaotic or ripple effects, with behavioural pattern that will dramatically affect success of business or technological solutions."

The key is to get involved and see what will work for you:

"Learning Web 2.0 (however you define it) is much like learning a new fundamental skill like bicycling or typing or email or spreadsheets. You can't be sure exactly how you will use it, but you can be sure it will be useful in all kinds of ways. It's pointless to try too hard to figure in advance how it will affect your business--that is unknowable. What you want to do is have loads of people learn the skill and the best uses will emerge."

The graph on this post is from the early contributions to my survey: this seems to contrast with the answers to my Linkedin question - so far people responding to the survey are a lot more bullish about the possibilities inherent in web / enterprise 2.0: 50% say that 2.0 is a revolutionary new opportunity for business that must be grasped with a sense of urgency.

What's your take?

You can add your views to my survey at

And / or please add your comments here.

Learning 2.0

Hello to everyone I met at today's Learning & Skills Group conferencette. I hope you'll get time to take my social connecting / web 2.0 survey (top right-hand corner of my blog).

And especially to Jane Hart. Jane, I hope you're not too shattered now after your two sessions on learning tools.

I've already posted a series of updates on social networking and web 2.0, as well as enterprise 2.0, management 2.0 and knowledge management 2.0.

I like Jane Hart’s description of learning 2.0 as well:

“Learning 2.0 (or E-Learning 2.0) is a second phase of (E-)Learning based on Web 2.0 and emerging trends in learning e.g. informal learning, self-managed learning and performance support.

The traditional model of Learning (which might be termed Learning 1.0) focused on content produced by experts (teachers, instructors, etc), and structured into courses, to be consumed by users/learners.

Web 2.0 technologies support a more social, collaborative and sharing approach to learning, so that learners (in both formal and informal learning situations) can co-create content and collaborate with peers to form a learning network - hence it is also referred to as Social Learning.”

You can see how all of these terms knit together…

Knowledge management 2.0

Knowledge management 2.0 is expressed well by David Gurteen:

“Another label for KM 2.0 might be “Social KM”. It is an emerging social model of KM. To my mind it is a very powerful model as it clearly places responsibility for knowledge sharing and making knowledge productive in the hands of the individual.

And so in the world of KM 2.0 we have two categories of social tool – soft-tools such as after action reviews and knowledge cafes and techno-tools such as wikis and blogs – an incredibly powerful combination.

So if the central question asked by managers in the KM 1.0 world was “How do we make people share?” the question of the KM 2.0 era is “How do we better share, learn and work together?” And is asked by everyone!

KM is becoming social.”

Again, very much linked to my other comments on enterprise 2.0 and management 2.0.

Management 2.0

Management 2.0 comes up in Gary Hamel’s book, ‘The Future of Management'. Hamel argues that management will evolve to look a lot like web 2.0, and will therefore be more adaptable, innovative and engaging. He lists the key criteria of both web 2.0 and management 2.0 (which I think apply to all real enterprise 2.0 approaches) as:

  • Everyone has a voice
  • The tools of creativity are widely distributed
  • Its easy and cheap to experiment
  • Capability counts for more than credentials and titles
  • Commitment is voluntary
  • Power is granted from below
  • Authority is fluid and contingent on value-added
  • The only hierarchies are "natural" hierarchies
  • Communities are self-defining
  • Individuals are richly empowered with information
  • Just about everything is decentralized
  • Ideas compete on an equal footing
  • It's easy for buyers and sellers to find each other
  • Resources are free to follow opportunities
  • Decisions are peer-based.

Enterprise 2.0

Enterprise 2.0 refers (at least in the way I use the term) to the web 2.0 enabled organisation: one, which like web 2.0 (the social web) is likely to be open, collaborative, democratic etc.

The term was introduced by Harvard professor, Andy McAfee in a Sloan Management Review article, Enterprise 2.0: The Dawn of Emergent Collaboration.

McAfee uses the term slightly differently to me – to “focus on those platforms that companies can buy or build in order to make visible the practices and outputs of their knowledge workers”.

I am much more concerned with the outputs of these technologies, the changes in the business itself than the blogs, wikis, group messaging software etc that enable these changes. In fact, I would prefer the term ‘social enterprise’ which emphasises the nature of the organisation (which can be developed through real or virtual tools and activities) if this wasn’t more commonly used to refer to organisations with a social purpose rather than a social way of operating.

My concern about a pure focus on web 2.0 technologies is expressed well by Thomas Davenport in his Harvard Business blog:

“What he's [McAfee] trying to do is to bring Web 2.0 technologies into the enterprise, to understand and describe how blogs, wikis, tagging, and other participative tools will change large bureaucracies. He believes they will empower employees, decentralize decisions, free up knowledge, and generally make for better places to work. I share his goal of more democratic organizations and hope he is correct.

However, I fear he is not. Such a utopian vision can hardly be achieved through new technology alone. The absence of participative technologies in the past is not the only reason that organizations and expertise are hierarchical. Enterprise 2.0 software and the Internet won't make organizational hierarchy and politics go away. They won't make the ideas of the front-line worker in corporations as influential as those of the CEO. Most of the barriers that prevent knowledge from flowing freely in organizations – power differentials, lack of trust, missing incentives, unsupportive cultures, and the general busyness of employees today – won't be addressed or
substantially changed by technology alone.”

Agreed. But 2.0 web technology does seem to be an important enabler.

The extension of the 2.0 tag from the web to the enterprise has further led to the placement of 2.0 after just about any other business term you might care to think of. Often this is done to refer to a ‘social’ way of operating, but sometimes, rather unfortunately, it’s just used to try to infer a more innovative way of doing things - even more so if something is labeled 3.0 (see ReadWriteWeb's discussion of web 3.0 as a marketing ploy).

I think three of the most sensible extensions are management 2.0, knowledge 2.0 and learning 2.0. And I will look briefly on these in my next three posts.

See also my previous posts:

Social networking will change HR

I'm tweating two

Social networking vs web 2.0

Social connecting in businessHR 2.0 survey.

Social Networking will change HR

The title of this post is taken from Business Week’s article published this February, Social Media will change your Business (an update on what was apparently an iconic article on blogging published in May 2005 – well before I started getting interested in blogging and social media in general).

I think this article provides a useful summary of social networking and web 2.0, and the update from the previous article shows very clearly how much business application of social media has advanced in a very short period of time. (My own learning about social media continues to advance as well - a particular hat tip to the Podcast Sisters for this).

The main point of the Business Week and other articles is that social networking and web 2.0’s ability to generate mass participation has the potential to provide a significant boost to organisational productivity. In an FT article, John Chambers at Cisco explains that “it will have more impact (than web 1.0) because the power of many to many allows you to do things at a dramatically different speed”.

Importantly, although most business people who know about social media tend to think about the applications of this technology in terms of connecting to customers, the greater opportunity may be in connecting with employees.

In fact, some recent research by McKinsey has shown that more businesses are already using some combination of web 2.0 technologies to manage collaboration internally (75%) than to interface with customers (70%) or with suppliers and partners (51%).

(This investment doesn't seem to have worked its way through to HR applications however - the Industry Standard notes that Industry Standard notes that HR is still at the bottom of the heap.)

To me, the key to McKinsey's enhanced ability to collaborate is the quantity and quality of connections employees have, both internally and externally. Social networking is therefore likely to be more important that other web 2.0 applications.

In fact, this is sort of what McKinsey has found. The main web 2.0 technologies and tools they find companies are investing in are web services (80% using or planning to use), collective intelligence (48%), peer-to-peer networking (47%) and social networking (37%) – all more popular than RSS, podcasts, wikis, blogs and mash-ups. But I’m not sure that web services or peer-to-peer networking are really part of web 2.0 – they seem to me to be part of more traditional distributed computing (and I’m still not sure about mash-ups either). And I think collective intelligence is a mix of social networking and web 2.0, so this leaves social networking as the most popular (still not necessarily the most important) form of technology (I accept readers may not agree with my manipulation of this data).

A list of social networking (and web 2.0) applications within people management might include:

  • Recruitment: using not just individual but corporate networks, whether these are open or closed, to identify and screen candidates, build relationships and promote the organisation using a human voice. (Other web 2.0 applications include recruiting through virtual worlds and promoting through blogs and podcasts.)
  • Learning, including induction and onboarding: the use of webinars, blogs and podcasts etc to provide extended opportunities for passive learning. (Other web 2.0 applications could be seen to include the use of rapid e-learning systems by subject matter experts.)
  • Knowledge management: enabling people to contribute, share, build upon and access information is largely about web 2.0 rather than social networking itself. However, social networking has a key role to play in identifying who are the owners of knowledge, ie it supports mainly know-who rather than know-how / know-what. Social networking can also be important in enabling employees and others to contribute ideas, suggestions and knowledge.
  • Enhancing communication, involvement and engagement: enabling people to connect and communicate in an informal, human sort of way, in order to build meaningful relationships (potentially easier for some to do virtually rather than face-to-face). (Other web 2.0 applications include blogging and podcasting whether this be from the CEO down (a CEO blog) or by encouraging and facilitating the employee’s voice through internal or external blogs, wikis etc.
  • Developing relationships, which I think extends beyond both just knowledge management and communication, as the quantity and quality of social relationships both internally and externally to an organisation provide their own, largely intangible value, for example, in supporting employees in managing their own careers. Another aspect of this is in identifying people who can contribute to an organisation who are not the organisation’s employees (managing across boundaries) and potentially in ‘crowd sourcing’ (outsourcing to individual agents).
  • Virtual team working: supporting virtual and dispersedly located teams and home workers, giving a personal flavour to relationships with others in the organisation.

The other reason I suggest that social networking is likely to be more important than web 2.0 is that I feel (and I’ve got absolutely no evidence for this what so ever) that the extra social capital provided through social networking’s enhanced connections and relationships will have a greater impact than the extra human and organisational capital provided by employee blogs, podcasts and organisational wikis etc - mainly because social capital is generally much less well developed.

So yes, HR 2.0 is going to have an impact on the way that people are managed and developed. I like the illustration provided by Sanjay Dholakia of SumTotal in a Talent Management magazine article (see also my previous post web 2.0 in SuccessFactors' Ultra):

"Joining Web 2.0 tools to traditional performance management practices such as the annual review, 360-degree assessments and training, etc. gives employees a sense of independence. They can evaluate their competencies and take actions to improve productivity in a networked way, with peers, managers and colleagues providing support. In this way, Web 2.0 tools and traditional talent management technology mesh, and workers can seek out organizational experts and communities of practice as needed."

But I still think it’s going to be social networking that is really going to change HR.

See also my previous posts:

I'm tweating two
Social networking vs web 2.0
Social connecting in business
HR 2.0 survey.

Take my 'Social connecting in business' survey here.

Social networking vs. web 2.0

Although these terms are often used imprecisely and interchangeably (with each other, and with other terms such as social media and social software), I believe 'social networking' and 'web 2.0' do refer to different things.

The way I separate the two is by explaining that:

social networking focuses on connecting people to each other, whereas

other web 2.0 applications focus on connecting people with the content that has been generated by other people.

So I might connect to someone via Linkedin and then subscribe to his or her blog to access the content this person has generated. (Of course, it is not quite as simple as this, as I may often subscribe to a person’s blog because I value them and their thinking, not just because of what they are currently writing about – in many ways I am in fact subscribing to the person, not just their content.)

So the points in my previous post about connecting apply in particular to social networking. In many ways, social networking is only a technology enabled way of doing what good networkers have always done, but this can now be done by many more people, and on a much broader scale

See also my previous posts:
Social connecting in business

HR 2.0 survey.

Take my 'Social connecting in business' survey here.

Social Connecting in Business

This post refers to my new survey on HR 2.0. I don’t want to influence anyone’s answers to this, either one way or the other. So you may want to take this survey before continuing to read on. The survey is available at:

Referring to the CIPD’s current research, the elearning network define web 2.0 as ‘the second generation of web-based 'social and sociable' technologies that gives people more voice in matters that affect them, encourage conversations, interpersonal networking, personalisation and individualism’.

The term ‘web 2.0’ was introduced by Tim O’Reilly at an internet conference in 2004, in reference to data, voice and video applications that use the ‘internet as a platform’, enabling non-technical people to easily build their own programs with user friendly interfaces.

It is the fact that web 2.0 allows lots of people to easily use the web to communicate and to share information with many other people in real-time that leads to another definition of web 2.0 as the ‘participatory web’.

So, whereas the first boom in internet usage (what has now become known as web 1.0) was about broadcasting information, web 2.0 is about collaborating, participating and exchanging information between people. There may be truth in the point that this is what the web was supposed to be about all along (and some internet sites have encouraged it for a long time, for example users have been able to write book reviews in since1995). However, web 2.0 put interactions rather than transactions at its very heart.

In fact, to me, web 2.0 is about these interactions, not the technology that supports them. Google’s Blogger may be a web 2.0 application, but it is my blog: my posts and your comments, which are at the heart of much of my experience of web 2.0.

And in fact, although web 2.0 may have been defined as ‘internet as a platform’ in 2004, at the second conference a year later, its meaning had already changed to refer to the new ways of working this technology was enabling.

To me, the fundamental focus of web 2.0 is about connecting, which then enables empowerment, collaboration, collective intelligence, organisational democracy and all the other benefits that are often seen to result from the technology.

So to understand the importance of web 2.0, we need to understand the process and benefits that organisations see in connecting, not just how they are using the technology.

And we need to remember that connecting can be done in the real as well as the virtual world.

These are a couple of my beliefs about web 2.0 which underpin my current survey.

Friday, 25 April 2008

HR 2.0 survey

The elearning network are running a survey on organisations' use of social networking / web 2.0 initiatives, on behalf of the CIPD.

I think this is a great initative and I look forward to hearing about the results of the survey at the CIPD's HR Software Show in June.

However, I do think they've missed a trick by approaching this from the viewpoint of the initiatives and the technology. After all, we all know that the technology behind e-learning doesn't matter; it's how this is used as part of a blended solution to achieve certain learning and business outcomes that counts.

So what are we really trying to do with social networking and web 2.0? I think if we could answer this, we'd be in a much better place to predict the impact of the technology.

Here's my perspective: it's about connecting. Connecting with other people both inside and outside of the organisation to increase human and particularly social capital (capability, engagement and useful relationships).

Another thing we all know is that the point of performance in most organisations is no longer the individual, it's the team. So human capital is no longer the only thing that counts. It's the combined social capital from people working together that's increasingly going to make a difference to organisational success.

And if social networking can influence this, well, then, I think it's got a future...

However, I don't believe many corporates have got this message yet. I think the value of connecting is well understood by independents like me, and by a lot of individual employees too. But I don't think many business leaders, or HR people, are thinking like this yet.

I could be wrong of course.

So I've also written a survey to find out. Please, please, please, take this now!*

It will mean a lot to me, and I think your insight together with everyone else's will add a lot of really helpful clarity to this important area.It is a slightly longer survey than the elearning network's and I apologise for that, but it's only 16 questions, so it should only take you 5 minutes to complete.

I'll publish the results in my blogs in a few months time, but if you include your email address in the survey, I'll send you the results.

And look out for some interesting posts on web 2.0 coming up too.

* The survey is designed for practitioners, but I'd still encourage others to complete it as long as you answer from the context of one particular organisation that you know.

Thursday, 24 April 2008

Recruitment 2.0: Head farming vs head hunting / Heidrick & Struggles

Another thing that came up in both Singapore and Dubai was head farming. I've already posted on this briefly, but develop on the idea here (it also explained further in my book, with a case study from Ernst & Young).

Basically, instead of waiting for a particular vacancy to arise, and then needing to find a particular individual who might fit (as in traditional head hunting), search firms and employers can work out who it is they want, establish relationships with these people, and then wait for the right opportunity (based upon particular business needs - but also the career needs of the individuals concerned) for the person to join the organisation.

The approach is about moving from a reactive to a proactive approach that will provide the very best talent rather than simply the pretty good (the very best is unlikely to be available in the market at the time a particular vacancy occurs).

It's also a good example of seeing people as providers of human capital, rather than as human resources, and is very much a modern equivalent of the original movement in pre-history from hunting to farming, which brought in major changes in the way societies were able to work. This is about a major change in the way that businesses work too.

There's also an interesting article on this (in a search firm context), showing how the approach is supported by social media (and therefore, referred to as 'Recruitment 2.0'), in this month's Talent Management magazine:

"Executive search firm Heidrick & Struggles is developing a private, invitation-only social networking site for high-level job candidates. The company hopes the ability to communicate electronically and share videos, photos and other media with candidates all around the world will speed up the recruitment process and enhance its traditional face-to-face business.

"The original impetus for us was that what we are, at heart, a relationship business," said Tashi Lassalle, vice president of strategic development at Heidrick & Struggles. "We're seeing more and more ways that individuals connect with one another, and we wanted to be on the front foot of that, rather than on the back foot."

"For us, this isn't about a numbers game any more than it is when we do our classic executive search," Lassalle said. "What it really is about is handpicking individuals in the markets we feel have most relevance to our clients, and then taking that exclusivity and bringing it online."

Users on the site are anonymous to each other but communicate directly and openly with their personal Heidrick & Struggles recruiters. Users can, however, converse with each other in the site's discussion forums, and if they choose to do so, they can mutually disclose their identities, Lassalle said.

"Something we've tried very hard to balance is the privacy element because, of course, in executive search you're talking to people who wouldn't normally talk to people, and you're basically working on jobs that wouldn't be advertised," she said. "So we want to try to keep that discretion, that really personal part, but we also know that individuals like to connect with one another."

That said, Heidrick & Struggles recognizes the concept of a private social networking site for executives is new and might take some getting used to, Lassalle said.

"It's like [Alexander] Graham Bell inventing the telephone and nobody being quite sure what it was going to be used for," she said. "We're still in the exploring phase. It's about what the [candidate] community chooses to do, and we'll respond to that and accommodate it. At this moment it's very much a supplement to our core business, which is brick-and-mortar and face-to-face."