The Secret to Successful 2.0 Evangelism is found in Social Intelligence

I was invited to speak at one of our executive client briefings last week.  The theme of the “Executive Perspective” was examining the “Core/Edge Dynamic.”  nGenera defines the “core” as the collection of processes, systems and infrastructures that have evolved over many years and effectively run today’s large enterprise.  The “edge” is the emerging suite of Internet-based capabilities that promise a huge competitive advantage in the form of increased innovation, productivity and agility.  My role, specifically, was to demonstrate how an “Edgling*” leverages social networking and web applications for personal productivity and innovative gains for the enterprise.

Part of the agenda included a talk by Gregory Berns, the Distinguished Chair of Neuroeconomics at Emory University.  Berns’ soon to be published book, “Iconoclast” outlines how and why iconoclasts essentially think and behave differently than non-iconoclasts.  In 2.0 evangelism, very similar to the role of an iconoclast, we’re attempting to change people’s behavior which Berns admits is difficult and uncomfortable.   As a part of the lecture, we were given advance copies of Berns’ book.  I was particularly drawn to his chapter on “Brain Circuits for Social Networking.”   This chapter explains that in order for an iconoclast to be successful and sell a new idea, he or she must leverage two variables key to social intelligence: reputation and familiarity.

In my talk, although I was chartered to expose our clients to a “new way of web-working,” I found I was not connecting with the audience.  For starters, as this was the first time I was before this particular set of clients, they had no idea who I was or what level of authority or credibility I had to present my ideas.  Although my nGenera colleagues did a great job of introducing me and how I work, the clients had no firsthand experience with me, so they therefore (especially given the content of my presentation) met my ideas with skepticism.  So I failed on the first variable, reputation, to sway my audience to consider a new way of working.

Secondly, the matter of familiarity delivered the final death knell to my chances of converting any new prospects to my scary 2.0 religion.  For the most part, what we (edglings) immerse ourselves in daily on the social web is wholly alien to the way large enterprise management works.  Many of our clients are not even in front of a computer most of the day.  It’s a series of back-to-back management meetings and various engagements where they’re reviewing or preparing presentations in order to make decisions on operational issues that keep the company gears running.  The suggestion to stay tethered to a micro-blogging platform was received as eagerly as if I had asked them to grow antennas out of their heads.

Of course, there is always the unfortunate possibility that I was just an awful presenter and that is the reason why the session did not go over well.  (We did have a little Skype trouble…)  Yet, I know how to read an audience, and it was obvious to me they just weren’t connecting with what I was trying to show and explain to them.  In Berns’ book, he explains that in order for an iconoclast to effectively sell a new idea he or she must make the audience comfortable with the idea.  In fact, there is neurological evidence that suggests the brain processes unfamiliar things as  “alarming and potentially dangerous.”

I’m publishing this account of my experience to caution other evangelists to explore as many ways as possible to bridge the gap between what the client already knows and the richness of what you are trying to present.  Our eagerness to spread the “good news” of 2.0 will continue to fall on deaf ears if we can’t make the story relevant and compelling in terms the clients can appreciate.  Further, we need to summon our own courage to overcome their innate biological fear of change in order to truly unleash radical innovation.

*”Edgling” was originally coined by Stowe Boyd.

Enterprise Suits Up for the Ride, but Seeks a Safe Landing

This is what would happen if Santa were an Enterprise App and he tried to automagically incorporate 2.0 grooviness overnight.

Santa as Enterprise App on 2.0 house

The irony just got the better of me… I’ve been wrestling with wretched old-school health forms all afternoon that will undoubtedly be, um, input or maybe scanned into some old-school enterprise system that will carefully set up my health insurance for 2008. If it weren’t Sunday, I probably could do some digging and figure out exactly what the “business process” is that will determine my paper-input-to-digital-imprint record through the labyrinth of enterprise systems. Will an outsourced provider be involved? Probably. A mainframe? Probably. A large-scale database? Oh yeah.

Have I enjoyed this process today? No. Was I able to customize my health insurance policy and my coverage according to my particular family’s health situation? Not in a 2.0 way. Was I able to choose a health insurance company by my review of doctors online and get recommendations from other insureds about which health insurance companies actually paid claims on time and answered questions with friendly, caring concern? Well, definitely not.

While I’ve been grousing about doing this all day, clicking on web sites, downloading forms, etc., I’ve had Snitter (a Twitter stream) up and have been keeping my eye on the chatter of the day. It appears Robert Scoble dared to ask why Enterprise Apps weren’t sexy, and well, you can imagine how my Enterprise Irregularguild” reacted to that. Nick Carr even got involved. It’s only Sunday too, so we’ll see where it goes. (See Dennis Howlett, Michael Krisgsman, Anshu Sharma, Vinnie Mirchandani.) Me? I agree with all of them, oddly enough. On the one hand, I’m having a miserable experience, and I agree with Nick Carr, and I really wish the health insurance company had more consumer-y features. New York Times Design Director Khoi Vinh expressed nearly the exact same sentiment with this post earlier this fall. I agreed with him then too.

On the other hand, for those of us who are working hard to try and transform, enlighten/educate enterprises on how they need to introduce some of this radical change to leverage innovation and wealth creation, we know what we’re up against. Enterprise applications are carefully managed fleets comprised of many battleships that simply cannot turn on a dime. Nor, would you want them to.

Should my son be rushed to the hospital in 2008 because he didn’t quite land that skating trick he’s been practicing in the street, I want to make sure all systems are go and the woman at the reception desk doesn’t get a message from my insurance company like this: 2.0 error

Dion Hinchcliffe and the Dalai Lama– Separated at Birth?

His Holiness the Dalai Lama Dion Hinchcliffe

When Dion speaks, I listen. Sometimes I think he is the High Holy Priest of Enterprise 2.0 for the technology audience. If he were not flying around the world so much, he might get a chance to blog more. When he does blog, his teachings empower and enlighten us. Enterprise 2.0 is somewhat of a philosophy more than a technology paradigm, so the metaphor is fitting.

If you’re interested in the topic and you’re not reading Dion, introduce your feed reader to this URL:

Dion’s post this week is aptly titled, “The state of Enterprise 2.0.” He’s given us a 1-7 lessons learned and taken the initiative to coin a new acronym (or pithy mnemonic as he calls it): FLATNESSES (okay, it’s not Hollywood, but we can get used to it), that does an excellent job of extending the meaning of Andy McAfee’s original SLATES acronym.