Relishing the Conversation

DrKW CIO, blogger, social software enthusiast, and true subversive JP Rangaswami just put up a great post in which he lists the most common ways in which enterprises try to discount or distance themselves from Enterprise 2.0.  One of them is the threat of dumbing down, which was the subject of my last post here.  

JP, to my great relief, agrees with most of what I had to say.  He also dissects the reasons that the ‘dumbing down’ reasoning is off base.  Here are few of his thoughts:

"When I compare wiki usage to that of written manuals and policy documents, or to that of the traditional intranet, it isn’t even worth trying to make a case. Game over."

"As the boundaries between different disciplines continue to blur, expertise has new connotations. At least one of which is Trusted Advisor, Recommender-Worth-Listening-To."

"While each subcommunity is characterised by having a core, a moderator, a 1000lb gorilla, don’t make the mistake of believing that this core is incredibly tiny and therefore easy to manipulate. Just not true."

"Games and humour and satire are pretty normal ways of working out how new forms of communication work, how they can add value. But soon they grow up."

The whole post has much more good stuff, and is highly coherent.  Give it a read.

JP’s business-side colleague Darren Lennard, who I interviewed for my DrKW case studies, emailed to swap observations about how employees were using Enterprise 2.0 tools to collaborate.  He liked the fact that I quoted Jefferson, talked about his fondness for Hume and Smith, and wrote:

"Classical economists based their theorising on some important principles – the most important of which was free and ubiquitous disclosure of information.  They saw that one of the keys to maximising individual and society utility as being the enforcement of disclosure, not by regulating the behaviour in response to that information. Much of the current debate about collaborative tools looks to me like an accidental rediscovery of the power of full disclosure."

The Rangaswami + Lennard combination helped me realize that transparency/disclosure is not just a necessary precondition to collaboration; it’s a form of collaboration.  I started this blog in order to get my ideas out there.  It’s done that, but more importantly it’s also helped me learn what other ideas are out there, and who’s having them.  I’ve found things out via comments, trackbacks, referrals, introductions, and emails from out of the blue.  

Some of this, I’m sure, was jumpstarted by my in Sloan Management Review, but it takes nothing away from that publication to say that the article alone wouldn’t have generated nearly as much interaction as article + blog has.  Making thoughts more transparent by putting them up on an online platform has led directly to further thinking.  And even though I haven’t included an anyone-can-edit technology (like a wiki) on my platform, I definitely feel like it’s been the base for a lot of  my recent collaborations.

So we shouldn’t get too upset if our companies’ first wikis don’t gain huge and immediate traction, or if the first employee blogs aren’t swamped with comments.  There are many ways for these technologies to be used, and to be valuable.  If they do nothing else they’ll contribute to the conversation, a tremendously important form of discourse that the British political philosopher Michael Oakeshott described perfectly as "an endless unrehearsed intellectual adventure in which, in imagination, we enter a variety of modes of understanding the world and ourselves and are not disconcerted by the differences or dismayed by the inconclusiveness of it all."

What could be better?