More Navel-gazing

Fast Company published its second annual Fast Talk: What’s the Biggest Change Facing Business in the Next 10 Years? Among the pithy commentary was Esther Dyson who has been a friend to ITSA. Esther helped me during Web 1.0 as an advisor and has always been a kind resource and source of counsel lending the occasional introduction when I needed it. Her comments here in the Fast Company piece sum up for me why I think the Enterprise 2.0 movement is going to be bigger and happen faster than a lot of people are predicting.

Esther Dyson

Editor, Release 1.0 (for CNet Networks)
New York/Palo Alto

Dyson, 54, has hosted the influential PC Forum conference and edited the technology newsletter “Release 1.0” since 1983. She has also advised many start-ups. In all her roles, she has helped mold our modern technology landscape.
First appeared in Fast Company: October/November 1997


“There is an erosion of power going on. Specifically, the online world has eroded business’s power. People increasingly will personalize their Web experience and determine how they interact with their environment and the people around them. The Web creates transparency, which will make competition tougher and in turn, business better. When a company messes up, it will be very visible. People will blog about it, review it, and expose a company’s flaws and pitfalls. Businesses will have to respond to this increased transparency by hiring and retaining better people. And in any case, we’ll see a new wave of smaller companies focused on specific needs, in part because they can outsource or partner for the commodity part of their operations or offerings.

There will be a profound change in psychology as people realize how much power they hold. There has always been a general perception that we shouldn’t mess with authority– when authority is exactly who we should mess with. Empowered people are going to begin to realize this. When they walk into a Wal-Mart, they’re going to want to know how a product was made and under what conditions. They will assume they have the right to ask because they can do so on the Web. And over time, people will start to expect that same responsiveness from all institutions, not just from online businesses. What kind of tax breaks on real estate are my elected officials getting–and why? And why isn’t my hospital as responsive as a hotel?

What does all this say about individual responsibility? If people control their own lives, then they are responsible for those lives. They can’t simply complain about things being bad. In a world of choices, your responsibility does not end with complaining.”
–Interview by Jennifer Pollock

Esther’s comments here dovetail with a lengthy interview I had with Joe Kraus, CEO of JotSpot. Kraus said, “When you give people the ability to do something that previously only experts could do, I think very interesting things happen.” Kraus admitted JotSpot was trying to enable a new DIY (do-it-yourself) revolution. So far, JotSpot has accumulated 30,000 users as customers with over 2000 organizations using its self-service applications including British Telecom and Intel. And JotSpot’s applications are by Kraus’ own admission, simple.

The key points here are from Esther’s comments– the erosion of power, the profound change in psychology, the inclination to mess with authority– all of this spells BRING IT ON, my Enterprise 2.0 friend with your empowering productivity tool. And if we look at the early success Kraus is having with JotSpot’s simple applications, despite the fact he’s specifically targeting the SMB market, it’s an early predictor of user adoption.

And one more prognostication for which I don’t have the data, but a sixth sense. Like Esther’s comments, Enterprise 2.0 may be more about the socio-cultural transformation than the ease-of-use tools that are enabling the technology transformation. It’s a demographic colliding alliance of sorts. On the one hand you have frustrated middle management users who’ve been hamstrung by lagging IT departments, dictatorial edicts for clumsy (and expensive) collaboration, and limited desktop solutions. On the other hand, you have the “MySpace” generation pouring into the entry level positions of every major corporation of the G2000. Today’s generation of hotshots are impatient; they’re all about instant gratification. To impress their bosses and peers, how long do you think it will be before they’re investigating their own self-styled DIY apps or Lord knows, situational enterprise mashups?

The problem with blogging is– no editor. I’m not sure I’m making my points clearly here. I’ll look at this again later this weekend and try to rewrite it if it’s not making sense. Meanwhile, I know people are reading the blog. Please post some comments. I’m curious to hear what people think about the half-life of Enterprise 2.0. Incidentally, great journalist minds think alike (ha! that is said with all humility). Jerry Bowles, whom I describe in all my links to his blog as “The most awesome Enterprise 2.0 blog” posted a note about the need for more “proofs of concept” to validate Enterprise 2.0. He also had some interesting comments on the Wikipedia weirdness.

Author: Susan Scrupski

Longtime fan of technology to improve humanity.