All Knowledge Is Social At Enterprise 2.0 - InformationWeek

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6/19/2007
11:24 AM
Stephen Wellman
Stephen Wellman
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All Knowledge Is Social At Enterprise 2.0

I am at the Enterprise 2.0 conference today in Boston. Enterprise 2.0 is a relatively new term -- it was first coined in March last year. But it has captured the imaginations of technologists and vendors around the world in just 15 months and gone memetic. But what does Enterprise 2.0 really mean for businesses?

I am at the Enterprise 2.0 conference today in Boston. Enterprise 2.0 is a relatively new term -- it was first coined in March last year. But it has captured the imaginations of technologists and vendors around the world in just 15 months and gone memetic. But what does Enterprise 2.0 really mean for businesses?The answer to this question depends on who you ask. According to noted blogger David Weinberger, Enterprise 2.0 is about tapping into the collective wisdom of smart networks and getting your hands on metadata. Dave opened today's session with a though-provoking session:

Solution to info overload is more information - it's metadata, info about info. Got way smarter about metadata. Ent2.0 is really about getting hold of metadata in interesting and important ways.

Frame this broadly. There are two orders of order; in the first order you organize the stuff itself; in the second we physically separate the metadata, reduce it in size, and then have two or three ways of sorting that. This is handy, we're good at it, and it works for physical stuff. But limitation - whoever gets to make up the sorting order is in control of something important, ie. how we order our world, because you're only allowed one way of organizing. That's a limitation of the real. Always have to do it because physical world demands it. Limitation of the real is that it seems designed to keep things apart because you can't have two things in the same place in the same time.

In short, the old way of organizing data -- top down hierarchies run by single experts like librarians -- is dead. According to Weinberger, networks of experts are far smarter than their individual members and more efficient at categorizing and tagging large clumps of data.

While there are plenty of skeptics about Enterprise 2.0, Weinberger says they don't get it. This is a revolution and it's far bigger than most of us can realize:

Wikipedia is not the only example of this - also present in every mailing list. Discussion expands the knowledge, and mailing list collectively is smarter than any individual within it. Knowledge is social, always was of course, but now it's unavoidable. Conversations with suppliers, customers, etc.

But it's not enough already. Ok, it's been 10 years, but we're not far enough along. Keep having major revolutions, these are big changes, it's not hype, it's right at the heart of knowledge, authority, trust, and how it's smudging the supply chain, the org chart. We are reshaping business, whether we like it or not. Business is changing from being 'theirs', to the remaking of knowledge and authority that is ours.

What Weinberger is calling for is a cultural revolution as much as as a technological one. Without a change in corporate culture most businesses will not be able to effectively leverage these new Web 2.0 technologies in their organizations.

The second speaker this morning, Harvard Business School professor Andrew McAfee, is credited with coining the term Enterprise 2.0.

Donning his professorial persona, McAfee graded the current state of Enterprise 2.0. Awareness of the concept merited an A, the technologies themselves an A-, and communication of the results (you, real world success stories), only received a C. While I agree with McAfee's first two grades, I think so far Enterprise 2.0 barely gets a passing grade in terms of real word success stories. Frankly, his C seems like grade inflation. To me it looks more like a D. But nevertheless, we both agree: There are still far too few case studies about how Web 2.0 technologies can help businesses.

McAfee's answer to this problem was simple: Get all Web 2.0 on it and build a Wiki dedicated to collecting, you guessed it, Enterprise 2.0 case studies and success stories.

While McAfee didn't guarantee a total revolution, he does hold high hopes for the meme he helped launch. "We're not anywhere near the end of this. I don't predict that corporate America will be completely transformed by Enterprise 2.0 over the next five years. But will companies do some amazing stuff with these technologies? Most definitely."

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