Breaking the reality barrier (social business style)

Read this post in: French

A tweet from Bertrand Duperrin, during the just finished Enterprise 2.0 Summit in Paris, ringed a bell in my head.

2014 will be the year #socbiz will fork. Idealists on one side, productivists on the other

We all know (or should know) that any social initiative should start with a concrete, tangible business problem to be solved. “Selling social”, whichever the tool that will be used, requires a thorough understanding of the problem to solve and of the weaknesses and strengths in presence. It comes with the impervious necessity to change the way companies believe work is done to align it with how work is really done: collaboratively, along the path of ad hoc interactions and iterations, back and forth between stakeholders who often only have a partial view of the problem to be solved. It also comes with the premise of more efficiency, of better operational performance. Yet…

Yet, once a company crosses the Rubicon, the reality kicks in dreadfully. Some key stakeholders are unable to use the technology because of strict firewall rules or legal compliance. ISO 9xxx forbid users from seing some relevant content. Video messaging is riddled by the poor bandwidth available. War rooms are only available 9 to 11 on Thursdays. Meetings cannot be recorded, thus zeroing out efforts invested in the planning of a series of webinars. Some manager, who doesn’t see the value he could get from it, dismiss the communication plan. This list could go on forever, and everyone who has ever worked in a large company has some items to add. It certainly helps consultants in allowing them to contract many days of consulting services to raise flags around them, but it overall demonstrates how broken our organizations are.

You may perhaps call me an idealist, but when a man’s kneecaps are worned-out by carrying heavy loads for too long, replacing them with state of the art prothesis a weak solution. When businesses are getting too big too remember that they are all about people, that technology, processes, and even organizational structures are just enablers, the society is in trouble. Productivists’ efforts to change the reality by socializing (cough) it look too much like another Zeno’s paradox, as incremental change won’t drive us past the sad reality we are witnessing day after day: beyond the poor state of what work means for many of us, think of exhaustion of natural resources, demise of human creativity and willingness, growing disparity of wealth,… Time has come to rethink not only the way we work, but the purpose and nature of firms. Time to introduce, as John Wenger said yesterday, to introduce sociology and psychology in our approach and thinking. Time to break the reality barrier, to help leading conscious organizations toward Wirearchy or Thin Organizations.

It will be a long journey, for sure. But the path is now opened, as guilds like Change Agents Worldwide or Corporate Rebels United now exist to help us pave the way for others to follow and expand. I’d wished I had them by my side some years ago. As Anatole France once said: “To accomplish great things, we must not only act, but also dream; not only plan, but also believe.”

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