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7/31/2012
02:40 PM
Venkatesh Rao
Venkatesh Rao
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The Enterprise 2.0 Backlog: 100 Ideas

Some of the ideas on this list are quirky, but they'll get your creative juices flowing as you dive into the execution phase of the E2.0 revolution.



I've been writing about Enterprise 2.0 and social business topics off and on for almost four years. That's a long time in business.

Every business idea has aspects that are faddish and aspects that are substantial. As an idea evolves through its hype cycle, the noise eventually dies down and substance gets incorporated into "business as usual." And within a few years, nobody is able to imagine doing things differently. The E 2.0 and social business conversation has now evolved to a point where we can take many things--employees blogging, for instance--as part of the definition of business as usual.

So in one sense, the revolution is over. Many individual threads of the broader conversation have hit diminishing returns.

[ Social/mobile, cloud, and big data—successful enterprises must be prepared to adopt all three. Read more at Embrace Enterprise 2.0 Trifecta. ]

But in another sense, the revolution is just beginning. This is a time of radical change in the very design of corporations, the likes of which have not been seen since the late 1800s. That revolution, triggered by the telegraph, didn't fully play out until the mid-1950s, when thinkers such as Peter Drucker and Alfred Chandler were able to describe the mature, classical form of the Industrial Age corporation. By that time, a few generations of the model had come and gone.

We're now at the threshold of a similar long plateau of maturation for the post-Industrial, Internet Age corporation. The basic ideas have been identified and the big changes have been set in motion. But it will be a few decades before the ideas become embodied in every aspect of business. When the logic of forces now in motion works itself out, we will be in an unrecognizable world. From work chairs (which may not exist if standing desks flood the information worker culture) to tools (what comes after tablets?) to the definition of leadership to the very legal definition of a corporation, everything will have been transformed.

Like many of you, I have moved on to more specific interests within the emerging business landscape. Among my current interests are the future of data, the Internet of Things, and the future evolution of the larger business landscape. Many of these interests are informing my second book project, Game of Pickaxes, which I'm beginning to work on now.

So for now, I will be signing off from The BrainYard. I'll resume my writing here once I find a new theme that grabs my interest and seems like it would be worth exploring. In the meantime, you can keep up with my thinking at my personal blog, Ribbonfarm.

So I leave you with what I hope is an appropriate conclusion to four years of writing about E 2.0: a "backlog" (in the sense of agile software development models such as Scrum) of 100 items to get you thinking creatively as you begin the execution phase of this long journey. You can also get the list in spreadsheet form here and edit and modify it for your own needs.

You can also find all of my writing on E 2.0 and social business (including this column) collected into a quick-and-dirty PDF eBook here. It weighs in at about 29,000 words/100 pages, so it should be a fun, light read for your next flight.

Au revoir, folks!

The Backlog

This list is meant as a thought-starter. The spreadsheet version also has a column of Scrum-style "point" values for each item, which total to 721. You might want to try a fun exercise: counting up the points you've already completed.

1. Hire a new employee via a social media encounter.

2. Fire an employee for a Twitter indiscretion.

3. Release an interesting internal dataset to the public.

4. Release a significant piece of code to the open source community.

5. Make a list of companies that might disrupt yours by using the Internet.

6. Make a list of companies that you could disrupt by using the Internet.

7. Brainstorm a highly automated business model that lets you do what you currently do with 10% as many employees.

8. Identify a professional employee role that can be converted into an amateur prosumer role.

9. Run an online innovation jam.

10. Set up and run a prediction market experiment for a month.

11. Persuade your marketing department to modify your company's website logo in an interesting way for a PR opportunity.

12. Create a useful ebook and associated microsite for your customers and get to 1,000 downloads using only word-of-mouth techniques.

13. Spin up a Hadoop cluster and run an experimental Map Reduce job on some large internal dataset.

14. Pilot a "Bring Your Own Device" (BYOD) program with a subset of your employees.

15. Run an online meeting involving at least 2 times as many people as your largest conference room can hold.

16. Convert a conference room into a Maker studio equipped appropriately for your industry.

17. Mine your email servers to produce a map of the internal social graph of employees.

18. Run a contest to discover the best personal blogs written by your employees and award prizes to the top three by popular vote.

19. Create a Y-Combinator-style incubator program within your company with funds amounting to at least 0.1% of revenue.

20. Get a post on your company blog onto the front page of a major aggregator such as Hacker News or Slashdot.

21. Get a tweet from your official corporate account retweeted at least 100 times in 24 hours.

22. Announce and enforce company-wide interface standards that let anyone access any newly created dataset.

23. Instrument a critical business process and display real-time analytics on large hallway screens everywhere in the company.

24. Estimate the number of people actually using their offices or cubicles at any given time in your facilities.

25. Mine the calendars of your staff to compute the average number of four-hour "maker time" chunks your typical employee has available in a week.

26. Require all managers to schedule regular drop-in "office hours" for their individual-contributor employees.

27. Close down enough office space so that you have fewer desks than employees.

28. Connect two locations via a two-way permanent video link using wall-sized telepresence screens.

29. Source 2,000 hours (one person-year) worth of work from online marketplaces such as oDesk, eLance, and RentACoder.

30. Crowdsource a solution to a business problem.

31. Choose a new product concept to fund and launch using an X-prize-type internal contest among prototypes produced by competing teams.

32. Declare a "Wikipedia Wednesday" and get your employees to create or improve at least 100 pages based on their expertise.

33. Run an analytics exercise to compute the worst and best 10% customers based on profit margins.

34. Run a faux-Dilbert cartoon contest among employees.

35. Create a video of your newest employee interviewing the CEO.

36. Ban PowerPoint at C-suite briefings and require presenters to submit a written narrative to guide the discussion beforehand.

37. Install standing laptop desks with power supplies in all water cooler/break room areas.

38. Supply high-quality free coffee to your employees.

39. Install a treadmill in every break room.

40. Rewrite your employment contract so that employees do not give up rights to ideas outside of a narrowly defined scope relevant to your business.

41. Get rid of desktop office software (for word processing, spreadsheets, and presentations).

42. Create an internal version of Kickstarter (either in-house or using a white-label service).

43. Get rid of desk phones and issue work cellphones to all employees.

44. Sponsor a local co-working location in your city and reserve a few desks for employees.

45. Identify the savviest social media person among your employees and offer him or her a roving "internal blogger" job.

46. Create an internal time marketplace and let every employee reserve 20% of their time for sale on it.

47. Challenge every major function to put together a barcamp within a week of an announcement.

48. Fire a customer.

49. Run a C-level brainstorm to figure out what it would mean for your company to be a "platform."

50. Figure out whether your company's primary competence lies in infrastructure, product development, or customer relationships (based on John Hagel's "Unbundling the Corporation" model).

51. Assess the value of your company as a software company, ignoring other kinds of assets.

52. Have your chief strategy officer develop and deliver a presentation on what your company would look like if it gets "eaten by software."

53. Construct a map of the long tail of your marketplace and assess whether it's a threat to your business.

54. Get your engineering and marketing teams to run an exercise to figure out a gamified version of your main products or services, no matter how silly the idea sounds.

55. Get your finance department to figure out a radically different pricing model for your products or services, modeled on SaaS/on-demand ideas, no matter what you sell.

56. Hire consultants to run an "outside-in" exercise to figure out as much as possible about your business model and strategy based purely on publicly available information.

57. Create a special taskforce to figure out as much as possible about your main competitor using only public sources of data, and see if you can beat conventional competitive intelligence practices.

58. Run a "secret shopper" type of exercise to do a touchpoint assessment on your sales and post-sales operations.

59. Hire a writer to write a critical, non-hagiographic history of your company and distribute a copy to all employees.

60. Analyze the lowest-wage category of workers and figure out if you can replace it with a mix of automation and a smaller number of high-wage workers.

61. Analyze the highest-wage category of individual contributor workers and figure out if you can replace it with a larger number of lower-wage workers.

62. Figure out which startups you would buy with next year's R&D budget if you shut down your R&D department entirely.

63. Run an exercise to assess the quantity and value of data stocks and data flows in your company, down to the nearest petabyte.

64. Shut down your corporate website for a day and replace it with the message "under maintenance" and an email address for critical inquiries, and see how many emails you get and what people actually ask for. Then figure out if your website actually supplies that information.

65. Create an internal video channel and equip a studio where any employee can create and upload videos to the intranet.

66. Start a harmless but interesting "tracer rumor" and find out how quickly the message propagates to different parts of your company.

67. Convince your board that you should stop providing earnings expectations guidance to analysts, and renegotiate all C-suite packages accordingly.

68. Get your IT department to define a vision of an "Intranet of Things" for your business.

69. Run an internal hackathon based on one of your products or services.

70. Estimate the amount of data living on employee hard drives.

71. Get your employees to join Quora and create a large Q&A base that's useful to the public, based on your company's expertise.

72. Release an interesting internal PowerPoint slide deck on Slideshare that shows off something unique about your internal culture.

73. Do a review of Glassdoor reviews of your company at the next C-level meeting.

74. Design a useful iPhone app related to your company that is not a useless piece of marketing fluff.

75. Create a children's book about your company that convinces the average 5-year-old that your business is useful and valuable to the world.

76. Encourage employees to do a flash mob in the company cafeteria.

77. Redesign your corporate home page to be as simple as the Google homepage and keep it up for a week. Analyze results and discuss.

78. Suspend all broadcast marketing and advertising in a sales territory and go social-only for a quarter. Compare results to a control territory.

79. Construct a poster showing the source-to-sink how-it-is-made view of your operations and release it publicly.

80. Create an internal currency and a meaningful marketplace around it.

81. Run an exercise similar to Zappos to figure out your internal company culture as your employees see it.

82. Figure out the proportion of new hires in the last year that came via existing employee referrals.

83. Sponsor a programming contest.

84. Send a diverse team from all over your company on a study tour of Asia.

85. Pilot a program at a single facility to create "smart infrastructure" that runs greener, cheaper, and more profitably.

86. Run a photography day asking all employees to use their smartphones to take pictures of things that could be changed or improved around the workplace.

87. Install intranet webcams and monitors at all water coolers.

88. Estimate your company's word-of-mouth sphere of influence by asking only employees to forward a funny YouTube video to friends and family.

89. Inventory all unofficial online communities (such as LinkedIn or Facebook groups, or industry-level bulletin boards) and rank them by value against all official sites.

90. Estimate the death date of your business based on current and planned product lines and innovation portfolio. If your answer is "eternal," you did it wrong.

91. Deliberately and secretly create a minor social media PR mess to test the preparedness of your marketing department.

92. Design and administer a "technology literacy" test for your employees that's relevant to your company and the Internet Age.

93. Charter a scenario analysis team to map out what would happen to your company in the event of an Internet blackout that takes all of your company operations offline.

94. Hire a security firm to create a Stuxnet-style intervention test against your most critical physical infrastructure.

95. Run a what-if scenario at the C level to gauge preparedness for being a target of an attack by Anonymous or Wikileaks.

96. Offer all employees highly subsidized training in a programming or design skill relevant to your business.

97. Issue a challenge, with a prize, to Silicon Valley to disrupt your business.

98. Cut the amount of paper used by your company in half within a year.

99. Digitize all the archived paper documents in your company within a year.

100. Run a company-wide "work from home" day for all employees who do not need specialized workplace equipment.

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