Blogging was where we began, and how we built our company so we have preserved this archive to show how our thinking developed over a decade of developing the use of social technology inside organisations

Behavioural transition strategies for E2.0


This year’s Enterprise 2.0 conference in Boston was an interesting opportunity to take the pulse of the emerging social business software and services market. There were some good case studies, product releases and ideas, and the network of people and companies driving the sector is becoming stronger and more interesting – worth the price of admission alone, in fact
Sameer Patel and Oliver Marks wrote useful round-ups of the event. My over-simplistic impression of E20 was that product companies are doing great work, but are slightly ahead of their market; service companies are less mature, although vital to adoption; and, as ever, we are blessed with more analysts than is probably strictly necessary. But it showed good progress
The event also saw some interesting research initiatives, such as Stowe Boyd and Oliver Marks’ Open Enterprise 2009 Research Study (for which I did a video interview) and Susan Scrupski’s Adoption Council, whilst the prolific Dion Hinchliffe continues to diagram the sector and provide useful commentary
Adoption was a big theme at E20 this year, but I find the whole notion of adoption, which usually means software adoption, to be slightly problematic. What we really should be talking about is redesigning organisations and their networks to harness people power to get things done quicker, better and cheaper, and enabling businesses to scale in a better way. This, not tool use, is probably the goal of social business design and E20
On this topic, one session I really enjoyed was the IDEO / Thoughtfarmer Intranet case study, which was all about user experience, sensible iteration, feedback and making hidden data visible to assist adoption. I think we will only see enterprise social computing succeed when companies put the same emphasis on user experience within the firewall as we have seen with popular consumer products outside the firewall, and of course if any company understands this, it is IDEO
For my part, I ran a session looking at behavioural transition strategies – those little techniques and tricks that can remove some barriers to adoption, overcome futureshock and generally help second wave adopters find their way with social tools and social business

It was very enjoyable, with a great audience and a good 50/50 ratio between my talk and discussion from the floor, so thanks to those who helped make it such fun. The topics people seem most interested in during the session were precisely the simple things we can do to make social computing relevant to people who would not self-identify as early adopters, which I found encouraging
The reason I chose my friend Ken Douglas’s extraordinary photo of a chameleon in mid-change for the title slide of this talk was to remind myself that this liminal state is in some ways the most dangerous and difficult, because it is adapted to neither the old nor the new context. Bringing new tools and ways of working into old structures and processes may in the short-term complicate matters in some respects, as people will have to continue dealing with old processes and systems whilst trying to adopt new tools. The best way we can help is by ensuring the new tools support existing needs better than previous systems, whilst opening up a path towards new and better ways of working. Hence the need for behavioural transition strategies
My colleague Sid recently wrote about corporate culture and technology adoption last week, and made some good points about how to find the right balance between the two. He makes some good points about the collective realm of culture and group behaviour, but I think we must also maintain a razor sharp focus on individual behaviour, incentives and task relevance if we are to bring people with us on this fascinating journey to improve the world of work.

6 Responses to Behavioural transition strategies for E2.0

  1. By Stuart McIntyre on August 10, 2009 at 10:28 am

    Cracking presentation, Lee.
    Agree completely regarding creation of business- and productivity-focused use cases, and avoiding the mention of wikis, blogs et al.

  2. By Susan Scrupski on August 10, 2009 at 2:40 pm

    Thanks Lee for the mention on the Council. Gil Yehuda blogged something similar regarding the “adoption” label. I’ll re-post here the comment I posted on his blog.
    “You’re right, Gil. Adoption is not a perfect label. But those that are trying to get this done in their companies identify with the adoption curve for innovation. . It’s not unusual for technology companies to cite the Roger’s Adoption/Innovation curve, but its roots are in sociology and psychology. Which brings us back to the culture story– and that’s where “adoption” is a very good fit.”

  3. By Chris Yeh on August 11, 2009 at 4:55 am

    I firmly believe that we need to focus on “pulling” usage rather than “pushing” adoption. End-users don’t care about all the grand philosophizing; they just want a smarter, faster, better way to work.
    Whether you call it a wiki, a blog, or a whoozit, people just want an easier way to do their job.
    Make solutions for specific, concrete use cases, rather than tools for general purposes.

  4. By Dennis Howlett on August 12, 2009 at 12:48 am

    @good piece as usual Lee – @susan: as you know I have long argued that sociology and psychology have a great deal to offer in this area but I see little evidence of experts in the field being cited or explaining the issues. Problem is that on issues such as: wisdom of crowds – while it sounds plausible and valuable, it is counter intuitive in terms of the way people actually behave: hence the 1/9/90 rule which in itself can be an inhibitor. I could go on but you get the drift.

  5. By Paul Mathiesen on August 13, 2009 at 11:42 am

    Great slidepack Lee.
    Organisational adoption of E2.0 is an area that we continually focus on and is solved by proactive marketing of the concept and showing participants where the value lies

  6. By Christopher S. Rollyson on September 14, 2009 at 8:33 am

    Lee, thanks for a nice summary. I especially appreciate your comment about the current liminal state much of the market is in; unfortunately, I find that too many firms want to believe that social business is a silver bullet of sorts, and they don’t appreciate that it’s hard work. My Web 2.0 Adoption Curve predicts a backlash in the market as many of these projects don’t produce the promised return during 2010. I think you are right on by emphasizing behavior transition. In fact, I believe that it will comprise the lion’s share of “implementation” revenues of social business engagements. Cheers-