Is Enterprise 2.0 Just for Knowledge workers

Artist: Matty Franklin
Artist: Matty Franklin

Thought inspired by this found post. Enterprise 2.0 is about open communication in and outside organizations. It’s scope can indeed be knowledge but also information or wisdom. For me an essential part of any 2.0 concept is the randomness of an encounter (in a netwok) and the lost relevance of relationships. Great post to reflect on and start acting accordingly! by H Pritchett 29/6/2009

A knowledge worker in today’s workforce is an individual that is valued for their ability to interpret information within a specific subject area. They will often advance the overall understanding of that subject through focused analysis, design and/or development.

As the Wikipedia definition above describes, knowledge work is interpretative, analytical and creative. Its fuel is information, and interactions with others around ideas and projects. It’s why Enterprise 2.0 is such a good fit for knowledge work.

The premise of Enterprise 2.0 is that valuable knowledge and contributions can come from anywhere in the organization. Unfortunately, there’s a perception that only knowledge workers stand to benefit from the social software revolution. As industry leader Dion Hinchcliffe noted:

The Enterprise 2.0 story is primarily aimed at knowledge workers engaged i But in the decisions and problems of customers every day. Small changes at first, perhaps anomalies, perhaps early trends. Either way, it’s the customers who will let you know when things are changing. n complex, collaborative projects which have had few effective software tools until recently, in other words strategic business activities.

Does that seem right? Only the knowledge workers have something to contribute in the emergent ethos that is social software? The reality is that knowledge workers have been participating while the rest of the company has been doing their own thing.

Where Will the First Indication of Market Changes Be Seen?

Market changes happen “out there”. Not in some paper you’re reading. In that case, who in the organization will hear about changes first? Likely, it will be those employees at the “edge” of the organization. Those with direct customer contact. Here’s a way to represent that:

companies out and inner edges

The folks at the outer edge are the early radar. They’re hearing about new products customers are using. New requests for what your product should do. New use cases they are starting to have. This anecdote from 3M is instructive:

3M told a great innovation story at the ARF annual conference about a new product that started with a complaint call into customer care. The representative did his own research online, came up with a solution, filmed a video that he put on YouTube and re-contacted the customer to see if that is what he was looking for. 3M reaps the rewards of creating a culture where innovation can come from anyone and anywhere and giving employees a little breathing room to explore.

Everyone in a company has something to contribute. Employees are working in the trenches daily, and new ideas will occur regularly. They are ready to post these ideas and their knowledge.  It just may not be via blogging or wikis.

Spectrum of Participation

There are a number of ways to contribute via social software. Some are well-suited to the work of knowledge workers. Others tap a wider range of participation inside companies:

spectrum of social software participation

At the top of the graph, applications like blogs, social bookmarks and wikis are the province of knowledge workers. People who research and record their findings.  There is truth in the notion that even if only a few people participate in blogs, social bookmarking and  wikis, there is high value for everyone. Finding the right information, and the right person, at the right time is valuable.

But at the same time, companies are limited in the value of they derive if they can’t capture the thoughts of all employees. As the 3M story about the customer service representative shows, valuable contributions can come from anywhere.

That’s why platforms that collect ideas are so valuable. The 1-9-90 rule of participation as it pertains to wikis and blogs is due in part to these two factors:

  • Writing up things you already know takes time, and is outside the flow of your daily work
  • Open, free-form venues can elicit a question of, “what do I write in here?”

But ideas are different. Ideas are things you’d want to change. Ideas are things that can make your job easier. Ideas are natural outcomes of doing the work you do every day. Ideas represent your personal creativity. If the frustrating part of a blog or wiki is, “what should I write?”, the frustrating part about ideas is, “how do I let people know about this?”

That’s something we’ve seen here at Spigit. Employees find it easy to post the ideas they have. They generally are “feeling” the reason for the idea – customer requests, repeated issues, reading the latest developments in their industries, etc. The Spigit platform does include blogs and wikis, which our customers’ employees do use. But the locus of activity is around ideas. People really do gravitate to discussions of “what’s next?” Of course, we’ve also built in incentives for participation as well: platform currency, personal reputation scores, privileges based on your personal reputation scores.

What the charts above communicate is this: true company-wide participation is entirely possible. And to garner the greatest benefits from Enterprise 2.0, companies need to achieve a good mix of internally- and externally-oriented workers. Because they’re looking at different things.

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15 thoughts on “Is Enterprise 2.0 Just for Knowledge workers

  1. I think that the definition of a knowledge worker is drawn too narrowly. Today, almost every employee is working with a computer–and they need to be able to think. Your example of the customer service person is a good one. Enterprise 2.0 is for everyone in an organization.

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