E20, Social and Generations: adopt vs adapt

Publish date:

A good while ago I read the words adopt, social and enterprise and tweeted: You can’t adopt Social to the Enterprise, you have to adapt the Enterprise to Social That led to a small storm of ReTweets by various other people; apparently I wasn’t the only one thinking this It’s been the issue for a […]

A good while ago I read the words adopt, social and enterprise and tweeted:

You can’t adopt Social to the Enterprise, you have to adapt the Enterprise to Social

That led to a small storm of ReTweets by various other people; apparently I wasn’t the only one thinking this
It’s been the issue for a small period of time now, and I’ve contemplated the idea in a few blog posts: I really think this is the end of us throwing technical ‘solutions’ at a business or organisational ‘problem’ – and that we will all agree that E2.0 and Social are about humans, people, change management, radical organisation change, and, in the end, about tools
And, in the field of Integration, my special expertise, the theme of adopt versus adapt has always played the most significant role in my working life. Do we adapt to our suppliers? Do we adopt the industry standards? Oh my the implications involved, the political consequence, the loss of face – versus money saved, gained, invested and ROI-ed. The eternal sandwich in between Business and IT – I just love it
I’ve mentioned John Hagel more than a few times, the marvellous co-author of a.o. Push versus Pull and the Power of Pull, and decided to show what I find to be his core table here:

Push Programs Pull Platforms
Demand can be anticipated Demand is highly uncertain
Top down design Emergent design
Centralized control Decentralized initiative
Procedural Modular
Tightly coupled Loosely coupled
Resource centric People centric
Participation restricted Participation open
Few participants Many diverse participants
Efficiency focus Innovation focus
Limited number of major re-engineering efforts Rapid incremental innovation
Zero sum rewards Positive sum rewards
Extrinsic rewards dominate Intrinsic rewards dominate

Looking at workforce, todays enterprises are populated by Millennials and GenX, and run by BabyBoomers. This is a fact that is becoming increasingly clearer
There we have all the forces in place:

  • Enterprises are run by Boomers
  • Enterprises are populated by GenX and Millennials
  • Outside the door there is #E20 or #Social media or whatever you want to call it
  • Millennials live in Social, GenX is quite good at picking it up
  • Boomers are used to Push, Millennials to Pull, GenX is torn in between

Now the question is: adopt or adapt?
Enterprises do everything top-down. Have been doing so for ages. Organisation charts, salary levels: no matter in which way you express an enterprise, you get a pyramid
Enterprises aren’t used to adapting. They adapt their environment to themselves. If their environment doesn’t adapt, they adopt their environment: incorporate them into a subsidiary, a third, fourth or fifth leg. There are giants out there becoming even bigger giants just by engulfing others
Employees aren’t used to adopting. They feel they have to adapt to their company – and rightfully so. Of course they (should) add value to their company, but it’s not their company – they only (want and need to) belong to it; they’ll adapt
Social is a Pull movement. It brings to the enterprise everything there is in John Hagels’ right column. And last time I checked, none of that is already there
Picture old-fashioned managers, the Boomers, sitting behind their spreadsheets in their old boys networks – they’ve witnessed so much change in their work environment over the last decades. Sending out emails is one thing, but receiving and responding to them is entirely different.
With so much change going on faster every day, just living by the day has become a habit for some. Innovation has slowly had to make place for the growing effort to cope with everyday workplace dynamics.
Social media, Enterprise 2.0, Twitter, Facebook – most of them only have a profile on LinkedIn and some managed to squeeze out something to the company wiki
Will they adopt this time? Why would they, what’s in it for them? It will bring yet less control, less power, less certainty, less visibility, less predictability, less image, less prestige. Why would they change? Can they change, even?
Can they adapt? They tried and still try – some of them. Of course there are examples of Boomers that have more social network accounts and sexy mobiles than their grandsons, but let’s talk percentages here: those are scarce exceptions to the general rule.
Then there’s the Millennials. They were born Social, maybe the next generation will even have 12 fingers in stead of 10 so they can tweet faster, who knows what this will lead to. It’s in their blood, they don’t know any better. And looking at Twitter and Facebook demographics, GenX isn’t doing that bad either
In my post on Social CRM Meets The Enterprise I picture what Social is really going to do to the Enterprise: blow everything wide open and crush the existing relationships.
Whereas currently management is the one single point of entry in the one-to-many relationship between company and customer, Social will flood the enterprise with many-to-many relationships and call for horizontal management in stead. Peer management. Where management comes from the Latin ‘manus agere’ (lead / guide hands) we’ll need collaboration in stead: ‘com laborare’ (work together).
Not the collaboration we know, between business and partners, suppliers, etcetera: no, this one will be focussed inwards: practice what you preach!
I see a great challenge for management there, don’t you?
To a certain degree I understand what Andrew (who made some very interesting points in our Annual Report 2009 btw) is saying, but I think the future will prove him wrong. Yes he has a point about how the young always complain about the old, but now we can just compare everything with everyone out there, all in the open.
I used to never see my ex-colleagues again as a rule, but now they still stay in my LinkedIn network, my Twitter network, everywhere
The only thing that is really ending these days, is employer-employee ties. The employee-employee networks persist
Enterprises will have to adapt to Social via the Millennials and GenX employees they have.
They will need to do so to be able to handle the changed customer:company relationships and take on the Power of Pull.
They will need to Grow before it’s too late and Change is the only option left – next to Extinction
What will the Boomers (have left to) do?

Martijn Linssen is an Enterprise Integration Architect.
For the last 14 years, he’s been working within Capgemini, but today is his last day and this is his last blog post.
You can find him outside, at martijnlinssen.com

Related Posts

Artificial Intelligence

Intelligent automation is driving digital transformation of Financial Services – Part 2

Date icon November 30, 2021

From faster response times with RPA, optimizing pricing and underwriting, and data-error...


Driving a smart and seamless sales experience

Date icon November 26, 2021

Deepak Bhootra (GTM Lead, Digital Sales Operations) talks to Innovation Nation about how...

Artificial Intelligence

Intelligent automation is building a digital future for Financial Services – Part 1

Date icon November 17, 2021

From quicker time to market for new products to data-driven cross-selling opportunities,...