Adoption roadblocks – part 1

by admin on October 11, 2006

in Innovation

The first morning at Office 2.0 has been interesting from a management perspective.

First up was Esther Dyson who said her travels around the world indicate the ubiquity of DSL, which many of us in EU and the US take for granted is a rarity elsewhere. Esther sees this as a showstopper for the vision of always-on, services based work. I see this as a short term issue as telecomms companies figure out new ways of connecting the unconnected and empowering the disenfranchised. In parts of Europe for example, the mobile phone is the preferred connection device so DSL is of less importance.

Next up was Andrew McAfee, the man who spawned the notion of Enterprise 2.0. Andrew talked about some of the roadblocks to adoption, concentrating on the management issues. One of the key data points that emerges is that 1% of people are seriously active in the world of wiki/blog, 9% are moderately active, that is they may comment but are unlikely to have an especially active blog while 90% are lurkers. This last category are consumers of information who benefit from previously untapped knowledge.

These stats don’t surprise me. I’ve long argued the Mr. 1% scenario, where a very small number of people act as innovation creators, disrupters to the status quo and ultimately as change agents. The next 9% interest me as they are the ones who will (or will not) support change. In other words, these are the people who see ideas through to action. They’re the brokers between ideas people and users.

Over-riding this general view is the thorny issue of command and control versus free thinking. In a later conversation, Andrew agreed with me that we live in a world dominated by management and IT systems that support command and control. So even though today’s children may be much more tech savvy and willing to experiment with new things, my question is what happens when they enter higher education or professional training?

My sense is their free thinking nature gets knocked out of them as an integrated part of training. That’s because self interest kicks in and they quickly realise that climbing the greasy management pole requires conformity to the norms that govern those organisations. By the time trainees are in their third year, they’re culturally absorbed into those norms. Does this mean change that frees up knowledge and releases the power of free thinking and discussion will get stifled? Yes and no.

Like Andrew, I hope not. Mr 1% will thrive and may, over time become 2,3,4 or 5%. But I suspect there will be tremendous resistance for a long time to come. Especially from vested interests who see open innovation as a threat to the established order.

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Philip Woodgate October 11, 2006 at 10:59 pm

Sounds like one hell of an event. The Myspace generation is tech savvy, but do they really experiment more? I’m not convinced. Our Mr/Mrs/Miss/Ms 1% exists in every generation. To fit the company machine they may confirm, but these people have a genetic disposition to experiment. It’s a rich world at the moment in which to experiment. I bet out of work they are having a ball. The arrival of blogs and the internet now provide a greater chance their innovative thoughts will surface. Your blog is living poof of that for me. It’s provided the catalyst for new ideas that I’m now working on.

Dennis Howlett October 12, 2006 at 8:13 am

yes they do Philip – stuff my children play with are incredible – they discover very quickly. They work really fast and have almost zero attention span – 30 secs max on new stuff. They're inventive and ask questions people of my generation wouldn't think about. The point is the new technologies allow them expression in ways unthinkable just 10 years ago. What's more, those same technologies provide the context of a global community. That adds a permanence and power we've not seen before.

Richard Murphy October 12, 2006 at 8:14 am

Philip and Dennis are right

This is a world where the greatest value is placed on conformity. And the greatest value on conformity is given by the organisations that espouse free-market thinking the loudest – i.e. the big corporations. The last thing they want is enterprise. This is not a political observation, it is an economic one. Their aim is monopoly, and that is obatined by rpeventing market entry. Free thinking begets enterprise, begets market entry. It's not surprising they try to kill it.


Philip Woodgate October 12, 2006 at 8:54 am

Children are incredible at experimenting, but I bet they were just the same 100 years ago. I think your point Dennis is that we could have a society that encourages experimentaion rather than frowns on it. I would agree. You can train someone to run and they run faster with good training; but for the top 1% training is not enough it's got to come from within.

Dennis Howlett October 12, 2006 at 9:06 am

So now the issue beceoms: How do you harness that creativeness and innovative thinking in as risk free a manner as possible? Inside the firewall is the place to start, but you've got to have an environment where it's OK to fail.

Jason Holden October 12, 2006 at 10:20 am

I think for many once they enter formal training they do for a while let that 1% sparkle (that makes them different) hibernate for a while until one day usually mid 20s onwards when they start thinking hang on it doesn’t have to be that way.

I always remember someone who I admire greatly, a true gentleman, he told me not to worry about my career (at the time I was mid 20s) as he said ‘in the natural order of things a career only really takes off when you hit 30’; there was a lot of truth in that, but I think now that age can be pegged at mid 20s, the age most who have trained in a professional environment think hang on this can be done differently.

Then you have those who have never had that sparkle, the foot soldier, nothing wrong in that, let them audit!

Then you have those who will not let the 1% sparkle die, they don’t train, they innovate and force change, these are the true entrepreneurial spirits.

Only my opinion, anyway got to go and read your other postings Den, then work to do I’m afraid.

PS The young generation scare the hell out of me, their grasp of new technology and innovation is really going to make the future go with a bang (and many a senior partner will not doubt shake his head in disbelief, it truly is a brave new world!)

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