Serendipity, and the mothers of innovation


There is a quest to grasp the Enterprise 2.0 arena both in academia, knowledge management evangelists, and within practice. The terminology is rather blurred and fluffy, but expresses a urgent need to describe the make-do easy going attitude digital natives share towards information seeking, social networking and work practice, that ‘might’ be coupled to a new business setting going forward. In these early days we only sense a notion of the general direction, but fail to prove the evidence. Mostly we share corporate stories, that gives us all the feeling of being part of the change. As researcher and practitioner, I also fall into the simple means of explaining the change in the bedrock of web 2.0 technologies. Artifacts have always changed our human social behavior, but it isn’t that obvious what technology at hand that will gives us such a big leap forward, that we in the history lessons later will reflect upon this as “revolution” in contrast to “evolution”. Timely given the fact that it is exact 200 years ago, since Charles Darvin, made a big step for mankind!

Being digital emigrant, but rather grown up, having used Internet since 1989, my simple stab at this change, is that the social tendencies we now are facing was the bedrock to why I started to use usenet newsgroups, mailing-lists, ftp and other obscure IP protocols. Sharing is in the spines of all this, what has changed is the ubiquitous information environment, and ease-of-use for people outside nerdy Unix worlds (where I started off). Network theory explains these changes in pretty simple means, that makes sense to us all.

Turning the corporate landscape inside out, as proclaimed by Wikinomics author D. Tapscott, or other related works. Will that present a new Enterprise 2.0 arena for all of us?

I think, the answer is yes! but without proven evidence and data we stand small in this sandbox. The scent of emerging change is in our face. The Mash-up soup economy we now are facing stresses the need to network to survive. What all business managers fear is arbitrary decision making (even if that is what they practice daily), and losing control? The killer application is the in-built feature of all humans to have a strong gut feeling for adaptation, and where serendipity will play a key-role. Open-Innovation will give us competitive advantage, if we leverage the networking, and manage (or care taking /cultivate) these changes properly.

Adaptative Organisms, according to Mr Darwin, within nature and elsewhere have three markers to cope with change and risk: Diversity, Autonomy & Responsiveness and Communication (with friends and foo’s). In this simple explaination ones realises how enterprise 2.0 and web 2.0 technologies, regardless of their actual merits being contributions to terminology, fits for purpose. Coping with risk and change will not be possible with traditional management agendas or technologies.

Innovation, and use of technology in this scene grouped together as web 2.0, have been cross-linked with other emerging terms such as intranet 2.0?

or enterprise content management 2.0 or information seeking 2.0. From a sales-pitch point of view, it makes sense if you are a service or a vendor company in this space. (Disclaimer, hence these slides)

From a researchers point of view, these new terms defocuses from the actual need to explain the change in less marked oriented terminologies that will stand up in court years from now.

There is also mixture of what actually brings value to web 2.0, either realised as intranet 2.0 tinkering or improved information seeking experiences to match people, peers and networks. Truly it is a obvious shift from old school top-down derived knowledge management (codified knowledge) initiatives from late 80s and early 90s. Social Networking is human behavior, but the tools at hand renders different forms of information management, believe it or not! and in these days of dispart teams, groups and people ICT is the mediator. Not the camp fire where storries were told! The fascination with social media relates to us being social creatures, listening to the grapewine to survive in our group.

Knowledge Sharing, is in dire need of experience not only capabilities to cope with search and social media, and into this hot pot of loose ends and no means, the mash-up soup boils. To become competitive and unleash serendipity to the work place one need to bridge generation gaps!

Misconceptions, and rumors of “loss of control”?

In recent posts in both popular press, and elsewhere many “sayers” and “knowabouts” express the fear of losing control, when releasing the powers in-built to web 2.0 tinkering.

Problemet är att spårbarheten försvinner om skapande av information ges helt fria tyglar.

Traceability in any digital domain in No problem, even so, the open-arenas as with wiki’s, leave very fluid tangible traces of contribution in the logs, and within an internal setting all entries into social media will be connected to strong end-user profiling and security! Much better than the old school document centric way of solving collaboration, with work-in-progress documents tossed around, and where the changes will be lost over time, and the miss-use of corrupted temples makes it even more complex. For most organisations, it is only a matter of enforcing information management policies, standards, guidelines, procedures, governanace models and tools to increase the traceability, and features for future need to retention.

In the Enterprise Content Management arena, and especially within the practice amongst large intranet owners within the communication networks, the loss of control of published material on the intranet is really tangible. Control over the editorial processes and a strong force to use the channel as push, have given most corporations intranets that are indifferent for everyday users.

– De måste förstå skillnaden mellan en blogg och formell information som skapats av intranätets redaktörer. Om inte den mognaden finns måste man först utbilda medarbetarna, säger Fredrik Ring, ansvarig för enterprise content management på Logica.

There is obvious differences between push and pull and mass-collaborative environments, and in the end-user experience this should be pretty easy to illustrate with genres, and visible markers. People aren’t stupid! The real value is set, when intranet managers will realise this, and mash-up their push-angst to intertwingle information flows, based on end-users actual needs, not only corporate ambition to use the intranet as their vehicle.

In the story  Tower of Babylon, human communication and problems related to reach out, outside your community illustrated our human errors. Border Objects, being language constructs have always been the means to cross-link practices, languages and cultures.

En viktig del i tänkandet bakom Enterprise 2.0 är klassificering, taggning, av information för att öka sökbarheten

Information Management and Information Architecture practices and practitioner have worked with ontologies, taxonomies, and controlled vocabularies and information models to bring order into the unstructured reality being provisioned by us humans. Good effort, but less used! Hence poor findability across all digital information environments. Social Tagging and folksonomies raised great expectations from IM and IA folks, including myself. It is a great promise in the networked society to rebuild the Tower of Babylon?  but there are still hurdles to cope with before we reach the promised land.

One Response to Serendipity, and the mothers of innovation

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