The missing ground rule for Enterprise 2.0

In his MIT Sloan Management Review article, “Enterprise 2.0: The Dawn of Emergent Collaboration”, Andrew McAfee cites two “intelligent ground rules” that people building Enterprise 2.0 technologies are following

  1. Making sure the applications are easy to use.
  2. Avoiding any preconceived notions about categories or structure by building tools that let these aspects emerge.

I see some connections with this ground rule and the concept of rapid incrementalism that has been talked about by John Seely Brown. In this John Hagel talks briefly about rapid incrementalism as one of the responses to the IT Doesn’t Matter discussion kicked off by Nick Carr.

The two John’s position is that economic impact from IT comes from incremental innovations. Rapid incrementalism “enhances learning potential and creates opportunties for further innovations”.

This sounds very much like the type of emergence.

The design theory I have formulated from Webfuse includes a heavy emphasis on emergence. But it also combines it with aspects of Roger’s diffusion theory to address one of the challenges to Enterprise 2.0 identified by Andrew McAfee

The first is that busy knowledge workers won’t use the new technologies, despite training and prodding. Most people who use the Internet today aren’t bloggers, wikipedians or taggers. They don’t help produce the platform — they just use it. Will the situation be any different on company intranets? It’s simply too soon to tell.

Actually, I don’t think it is too soon to tell. The “build it and they will come” aproach doesn’t work with knowledge workers. There’s got to be something in it for them. This is the 9X email problem which Andrew McAfee has talked about.

If you draw on the information systems literature you come to TAM (I talked about this before) which posits two main factors influencing adoption of technology

  1. Perceived ease of use
  2. Perceived usefulness
    1. Perceived usefulness is defined as

      The degree to which a person believes that using a particular system would enhance his or her job performance.

      So I think there’s a ground rule missing for Enterprise 2.0 applications. The must not only be easy to use, they must be useful.

      In an Enterprise 2.0 I believe the role for an organisation’s IT/IS people must change from supporting the technology or specific business processes to continually being on the look out for how to leverage the technology to increase perceived usefulness of the systems.

      This is how you encourage adoption and use by knowledge workers. By creating a trust that the information systems for an organisation are being developed to be useful to them.

2 thoughts on “The missing ground rule for Enterprise 2.0

  1. Your comment about usefulness is spot on.
    I’d add one more characteristic, efficiency of use. Sometime very easy is too slow. dont hold my hand when I can run…. that is why lots of folks still use command lines instead of menus.

    google, after all, is just a command line.

  2. G’day Thomas,

    I wonder if “efficiency of use” is wrapped up in percieved ease of use.

    The “perceived” part is important. It indicates that each individual is likely to have a different perception.

    My computer novice Grandmother will have a different perceived ease of use of a system than I will. She’ll require a lot more hand-holding in the system than I would. There’s a small connection between this and the standard GUI design advice to include short-cut keys for the expert users.


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