Eating elephants – reflections after Enterprise 2.0 Summit 2014

How do you eat an elephant? You probably already know the answer: One bite at the time! At the time of writing this I am sitting on a ferry on the way to Copenhagen reflecting a little about the past week and in particular the Enterprise 2.0 Summit in Paris which I was fortunate to attend.

For outsiders this conference may have appeared like a bit of a family reunion for the E2.0 family and that is not too far off. Personally I had got the chance to meet around a dozen people who I have gotten to know through eg. Change Agents Worldwide and I am confident that I’m not the only one who experienced this so the family have grown by a few over these days.

But what about the elephants? Why was this my first reflection?

To stay within the food metaphors you can describe a conference like this as a meeting where you meet to swap recipes for cooking the elephant. You meet with peers who share their tips and ingredients and in the crowd you also have the celebrity chefs (thought leaders in the area) who offer new utensils and ways to prepare the creature that you may not have thought of. I give you that it sometimes is a little like watching Heston Blumenthal and his molecular cooking, but you almost always get some new ideas to test.

If you see the presentations, read the tweets and what else comes out of an event like this, it is quite obvious that what we are trying to succeed with is an enormous task and likely to be an uphill battle for the years to come. The good part is that we have more and more case studies from the likes of Bosch, Sanofi-Pasteur, ING, and many others who are making good progress in the area of enterprise social.

One thing that I particularly noticed this time around is that we are now in the process where a ‘best practice’ starts to emerge. Personally I’m not too fond of the term but in the end it is also important to have some specific ingredients in place:

–          A clear purpose for your network for people to engage.

–          Designated community management to help things along.

–          A communication plan to spread the word – viral is not enough.

What is still remaining are the more tangible aspects of these things: What is it worth? Where are the money? Big studies from big consultancies show big results but because these studies are just that – big – it is hard for companies to translate this to their own context other than to leverage it towards “the man” who you still need to convince about the wonders of enterprise social. This is by no means an easy task but nevertheless it is comforting to see that others are breaking the ice and that provides hope that ‘the rest of us’ will succeed with our culinary attempts to make the elephant we have been given more palatable.

Should I point at one thing that left me a slightly bitter taste I have to point at the seemingly eternal discussion around the future of organisations. The names and concepts are many but it all seems like more or less the same things in the same wrapper. Holacracy, Unboss, The ‘podular’ organisation and so on. Not that I disagree but in the end it is all about creating organisations that are more adaptable and responsive to change and in my opinion there is too much at stake to discuss labels. We need to put the ideas into practice and take what works for the individual organisation and I believe that it will not be one prescriptive solution but rather a smattering of ideas from the above concepts so rather than being stifled and confused by this discussion of concepts, we need to get start trying things out.

No doubt that some of the dishes that we serve will be too salty and some will also be burnt beyond recognition but just like when cooking everything else it is a fine balance between following the recipe and playing it by ear but one thing that we must never forget is to pause and reflect on how the elephant actually tastes before we serve it.

Bon Appetit!


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