Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Enterprise 2.0 and the dawn of emergent collaboration

Andrew McAfee heralds "Enterprise 2.0: the dawn of emergent collaboration" in the Spring 2006 MIT Sloan Management Review. It's a good overview of how businesses can make the most of blogs, wikis, and RSS web technologies. I recommend you check it out--despite the article's pretentious and misleading title.

The good part of the article is McAfee's list of six components of Enterprise 2.0, which conveniently yields the acronymn SLATES:
  • Search--keyword search is becoming increasingly powerful
  • Links--density of links is increasing, providing ever richer context
  • Authoring--more and more people are creating both content and links
  • Tags--emergent categories make content easier to navigate
  • Extensions--generate useful recommendations based on other people like you
  • Signals--RSS and news aggregators protect users from information overload
My main complaint about the article is how McAfee associates SLATES with "the dawn of emergent collaboration." People have been practicing emergent collaboration ever since we dropped out of the trees and learned how to walk and make tools. See Marcel Mauss' 1924 research on "functions of exchange in archaic societies" for (pre-) historic background and Mary Parker Follett for organizational application of similar principles, also written in the 1920s.

The dawn that we are witnessing is not one of collaboration. Instead, we are witnessing the dawn (or more precisely, return) of user-driven technical invention. To put that in context, consider this quote from the outstanding 1995 book What Machines Can't Do by Robert Thomas (formerly a professor at MIT Sloan and now writing excellent research for Accenture's Institute of High Performance Business), who said (in 1995):
"The separation of technology design and implementation in time and space dramatically reduces the opportunities for meaningful “user” participation in the change process…. Technology designers have little incentive to solicit input from those who are the object of change. As a result, new technology frequently confronts the rest of the organization as an exogenous force—one that can be countered only through overt political action."
The 1995 separation between technology design and implementation has visibly dissolved in McAfee's 2006 world of SLATES--and I think that is pretty exciting... Rather than type any unseemly exclamation points at this point, I refer you to this podcast where you can hear me panting about this revolution in the making.

Now all we need is a better descriptor than the way-overused "2.0" suffix.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.5 License and is copyrighted (c) 2006 by Connective Associates except where otherwise noted.

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