Monday, May 30, 2011

Unstructured Web 2.0 tools and structured systems

For some time now, I have been using and evaluating different 'Enterprise 2.0' systems.

This has led me to believe that Enterprise 2.0 has, potentially, some very powerful possibilities that go beyond Web 2.0, provided we approach it and think differently to standard web 2.0 usage.

In Web 2.0 we have separate tools, provided by separate providers. We can choose, and mix and match our tools to tweet, to blog, to create wiki's, to search, to be alerted, to collaborate in virtual teams, to conduct social bookmarking, social networking etc.

Because we tend to start with one tool, maybe blogging, we focus on the simple use of this until we gain confidence and understand its full potential. One by one, we may add these tools, initially, for simple reasons. But often, we only want to use one tool for one specific job.

The result is that we have people today on the Web who specialise, for example, as star bloggers with an enormous following and reputation as good writers, or thought leaders, or critics or whatever.

We have celebrities whose tweets are followed by fans.

People tweet from their phones to organize a revolution.

People use wikipedia as their online encyclopedia.

We use the social network facebook to keep connected to friends and their activities.

By and large, in our private lives, we use Web 2.0 tools to perform separate functions that help us communicate, learn and share in those areas that interest us.

They are hugely successful because they are each, very simple to get started, very intuitive, free at entry point, and enable us to participate globally, and to gain recognition to potentially huge audiences.

But now, through Enterprise initiatives, and pressures from private users of Web 2.0 tools, people are developing ways to use the same tools in the workplace, because as knowledge workers, we also need to find ways to better communicate, collaborate, learn and share knowledge and experiences, to help us become more productive, at least.

We start off by using the tools, one by one, in the workplace, for different activities. Frankly, if this improves our communications and ability to work better, in any way, that's simply great.

Eventually, however, some of us reach a stage that makes us think about how we could better use these separate tools by combining them, systematically, to create knowledge flows, perhaps to support our own work processes and knowledge deliverables?

But here, I suggest, we have to think differently from a simple to use and intuitive approach.

Here, we need BOTH unstructured AND structured information, we need to think both in intuitive and logical ways, we need both discovery and serendipity, and logical search and scanning, we need both creativity and innovation and knowledge management.

To me, its like the way our brains best function. Not totally logical (left hemisphere) and not totally creative (right hemisphere) but BOTH / AND. Interestingly, the Oxford Dictionary definition of genius is 'utilizing both the left brain and right brain faculties to the full'

So I suggest that successful Enterprise 2.0, if you are happy with that term, is beyond Web 2.0, and should allow BOTH free intuitive, informal, simple, unstructured, participation from which natural wisdom may emerge from the diverse crowds, on the one hand, AND logical, formal, structured process and review from experts and peer groups, working together towards organizational excellence. An organizational 'whole brain' approach.

What do you think?

Does this delight you or horrify you?

Could we start capturing ideas and blog learnings and insights spontaneously, yet within a framework towards structured knowledge flows towards Good Practices, for example?

In this case, the structure is achieved by chanelling the knowledge flow and knowledge objects towards managed wiki's, as well as self-managed wiki's, as appropriate.

Or should we restrict ourselves to the more unstructured usage only, as a key benefit to our work, and consider it as just one of the powerful tools to be used with other more structured tools in our organizations, to achieve specific objectives?

What's your take on this?

Ron Young

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