The Hardest E2.0 Problem - Culture

By Bert Sandie posted 11-25-2010 23:33


I have been fortunate to participate in a number of E2.0 & Collaboration oriented conferences over the past two years. As part of my participation, I have been given a great opportunity to present, be a member of a panel, or help run a workshop at most of the events I have attended.  You might be asking, “Where am I going with all of this?” At every conference, I attend as many sessions and meet as many of my peers as possible to listen, share and learn from each other. However, my feeling is in many of these sessions and conversations the “Culture” word is rarely discussed at the level of depth necessary for practitioners to achieve real success with E2.0 initiatives in their organizations.

You might ask “Why is culture important to E2.0?”  The simple answer is that collaboration, sharing, knowledge capture, and innovation all require core behaviors where people are at the center of the focus. Too often when E2.0 is discussed, what we hear about is the great new features and functionality of product X from vendor Y – this placing technology at the center instead of people, this seems like a big first step in the wrong direction. There are a number of great E2.0 products now on the market that are maturing at a rapid pace, but a product (technology) on its own is only a piece of the overall puzzle.

I am suggesting that there needs to be a major shift in how companies adopt E2.0 products successfully into their business and how vendors position and roll them out. Perhaps we need an “E2.0 Culture Kit” from the vendors as part of their product solution. Inside the culture kit is a set of culture- and people-oriented best practices on how to assess, understand, prepare, change and adopt to enable the full potential of collaboration and sharing inside an organization.

To be honest, the toolkit really needs to be in the customer’s hands before they ever purchase a product from a vendor. The reason for this is that toolkit will help a company better understand the current culture, if the culture needs to be transformed, who the key stakeholders are, what change management programs might need to be initiated, and what business problems are trying to be solved. This evaluation phase in any E2.0 project is critical for employee and company buy-in and to achieve the desired return on investment.

Another common story we hear very often from companies is a need to change their culture to one of the items listed below:

  • A Culture of Sharing
  • A Culture of Collaboration
  • A Culture of Innovation
  • A Culture of Knowledge
  • A Culture of Learning

The reality is that when we start to dig beneath the covers of company cultures by examining their vision, mission and values, it is not always obvious that the above items are part of their culture. Here are the values for a number of Fortune 500 companies:

Of all of these companies, Apple has in my mind the best single value that maps to what is needed for a successful E2.0 culture which is stated as ”We believe in deep collaboration and cross-pollination of our groups, which allow us to innovate in a way that others cannot.” This value seems to hit the nail right on the head, but it is one thing to write it down and something altogether different to ensure employees live this every day. 

Another perspective is that maybe the necessary culture for sharing and collaboration is some unique combination of grass roots, team-based, and top-down; and not completely connected to vision, mission and values. My own first-hand experiences have taught me that in the real world they are all inter-connected and intertwined in a unique way for each company which really confirms the necessity of the evaluation phase.

To summarize, I feel that culture needs to be sitting at the head table as companies embrace E2.0 inside and outside of their businesses. We need to be honest and transparent that culture is hard, complex and takes considerable time to get right, but it is an effort we need to be expending considerable energy and effort at if we want to enjoy the full benefits of collaboration, sharing, learning, knowledge and innovation.

For more information on this subject some recommended reading is “The Culture of Collaboration” by Evan Rosen.

#e2.0 #technology #changemanagement #culture #People