The conference has a really nice atmosphere--serious yet lighthearted at the same time. Andy McAfee gave a thought-provoking keynote on Enterprise 2.0, and the way that different E2.0 tools and techniques support different types of collaboration across strong ties, weak ties, potential ties, and no ties. (He's also done some compelling blogging about this.) As Socialtext expands beyond its core wiki product into enterprise-level social networking, I'm particularly interested in the way tools like social networks and prediction markets complement more traditional "strong ties" collaboration models.
In the very lively discussion surrounding Andy's talk, I had a strong and unmistakeable feeling of deja vu, as participants expressed concerns over culture. "We're just not a knowledge-sharing culture." and "Lawyers in our firm aren't incented to share what they know." Why deja vu? Because these are the same things--almost verbatim, that people have been saying about knowledge management for years.
And then it hit me: Most of the participants in the room thought that E2.0 is just knowledge management with a better user interface. And while they are impressed (and maybe surprised) that patterns of sharing and collaboration are emerging in the under-30 crowd on the public web, they remain skeptical that they can change the behavior of the over-30 crowd inside law firms.
If you read my blog or talk to me, you probably know that I do *not* think E2.0 is just knowledge management in new clothing. The difference goes back to the distinction between in-the-flow and above-the-flow collaboration. Knowledge management (and, for that matter, Wikipedia, Facebook, and LinkedIn) are all about above-the-flow collaboration, which works really well on the scale of the public web but is a major challenge for closed organizations. What Enterprise 2.0 allows companies to do is to collaborate in-the-flow of daily work. And it enables that collaboration to take place efficiently, transparently, and searchably.
To return to McAfee's bullseye framework, Enterprise 2.0 is not just about collaborating across weak ties with strangers or near-strangers. It's also about improving the way you work across strong ties, with the people you know well and work very closely with. Weak-tie relationships are created organically in the process. If John and Alice work together in the same department (strong ties) to create a wiki page documenting safety concerns for operators of injection blow moulding machines, then Sam from another department or region (weak ties) will run across that page when he runs a search on "blow moulding".
Strong ties beget weak ties, which is exactly the way you want things to run inside a company.