Just before leaving the #E20s in Paris Cordelia Krooß and Jon Ingham left me with the question when “Social” will become mainstream? My first reaction was: OMG no – I don’t want to be “mainstream”; this will take all the fun out of it. But aren’t they both right: if we really are convinced that “Social” is the better way to work and to do business don’t we need to cross the chasm?
In fact, the discussion is not so new. Cordelia wrote in 2011 an excellent blog post on the necessity to become mainstream. Rawn Shah pointed out in the same year that you need to develop a socially networked enterprise, and not just a rank of socially networked individuals. If you concentrate only on early adopters you will fail.
So where are we today?
For Dion Hinchcliffe the situation seems clear. In his opinion we did already cross the chasm back in 2009. But not everybody shares this view. In each year since 2010, people predict the next year as being the one when “Social Business” or “Enterprise 2.0” will become mainstream. Find some examples here from Tony Zingale, Bernie Borges, Jonathan Yarmis, Nina Kruschwitz, Joe Jervis, Matt Tucker only from the first two internet search result pages.
Looking at all these comments it seems not clear if Enterprise 2.0 fully reached mainstream yet. Some parts may be more advanced than others but at least it still has to happen something to make everybody agree.
“Just as visionaries drive the development of the early market, so do the pragmatists drive the development of the mainstream market. Winning their support is not only the point of entry but key to long-term dominance.”
I guess it is safe to say that the participants at the conference in Paris were mostly visionaries or at least early adopters. You don’t need to convince those people that this is the right thing to do. They are in a lot of cases even leading the crowd.
Now to cross the chasm and to make E2.0 sustainable we need to get the Early Majority on board, the pragmatists. With the words of Cordelia: “If we want to reach mainstream, we need to talk mainstream.”
I wanted to better understand what would be needed to get the Pragmatists on board. Let me try to summarize here how Geoffrey Moore describes Visionaries and Pragmatists.
Early Adopters: Visionaries vs. Early Majority: The Pragmatists
Visionaries see potential for ROI + are willing to take risks. They have the insight to match an emerging technology to a strategy
For Pragmatists the word “risk” is a negative word. There is no connotation of opportunity or excitement. They will take risks when required, but only with safety nets and close risk management
Visionaries know they are outside the mainstream
Pragmatists ask how others make use of it. They want to buy only from proven market leaders.
Visionaries like project orientation
Pragmatists care about support infrastructure, quality, reliability
Visionaries are in a hurry to avoid to see a window of opportunity closing
Pragmatists need patience, be conversant with the issues that dominate their business
Visionaries’ goal is to take a quantum leap forward.
Pragmatists goal is to make a percentage improvement – incremental
Visionaries communicate horizontally across industry borders in search for kindred spirits
Pragmatists tend to be vertically oriented = communicate more with others like themselves within their own industry. Best known by their closest colleagues, typically have earned here the highest respect and by peers within their industry
So it seems to be straightforward what needs to be done to convince the pragmatists (ok, agree it is a maybe a bit too simple and maybe too much focused on the IT solution part):
Solve their problems
•Understand “their” problems and provide solutions which are proven to solve this specific issue.
Take away the risk
• Provide a choice of proven business partners. Maybe they have done business with them before or their peers will be able to give them advice.
• Provide transparent support structures. If there is a problem there are easy and fast ways to get answers.
• Make the technical solutions work in the known framework. The most important step is the cultural change, so make it easy to take the technology step for example with the same support model (not only via Web 2.0 tools).
• Design solutions that have a clear and transparent product offer. It shouldn’t take an eternity to understand the product offer.
• Take away the fear of being stuck with a technology choice. Make it less risky to choose a technology because Open Standards will allow me to connect to each system in my ecosystem.
It might also help to reduce the number methods/tools to facilitate a decision. If there are too many choices we have difficulties to decide and – even worse – we are not happy with our decision afterwards. This phenomena is described by Barry Schwartz in his theory on the Paradox of choice. The current market of Enterprise 2.0 tools is diverse. This diversity produces often paralysis in decision making. With too many solutions people don’t know what they should choose. In reducing the number of solutions it is easier to decide. It is of course also easier to create the support structures for a limited number of solutions than for many different ones.
So, if I would have to predict what will happen in the coming years I would say exactly what I just have described above. Will we reach mainstream with that? – I would say yes. Will this be the best way to move forward? – I am not convinced.
For me Enterprise 2.0, Social Business or however you want to name it will hopefully help us to find better ways to work and live together. But also to give answers on how we will be able to deal with the speed of changes that happen today and the complexity of the world that surrounds us.
Ana Silva summarized in her recent blog post the Enterprise 2.0 event in five words (excellent initiative started by Fréderic). Her comment on “Diversity” shows for me quite good the dilemma we are currently in.
Different people, nationalities, languages, backgrounds, ages. But also different wording regarding the phenomenon we are witnessing, different views on how to prepare organizations for the challenges ahead and different opinions on the current state of affairs: I guess what Dion Hinchcliffe’s had in mind when he said in his keynote on the current state of Enterprise 2.0/Social Business that “when something matures, reality sets in and we get pragmatic“ is based on a different view of the present than that of Euan Semple’s that in his keynote worried about us “turning what could be a very powerful change into a highly structured thing put into little boxes?”
This is actually a very healthy sign. From diversity comes debate, questions, possible paths and a shared construction of the future.
We will see Enterprise 2.0/Social Business mature in the future and we will get pragmatic (so achieving mainstream) but I strongly hope we are able to keep the diversity needed to continue the debates and different paths needed to design the future. I will do my part. Will you too?