I can hear the doubters and scorners now. “We don’t need another tool”. “Why don’t you concentrate on new business models instead of all this tripe?” “I have enough information already”.
So why am I intrigued by Twitter? First and foremost I think it’s about the question that Twitter poses:
What are you doing?
I know, I know, people use Twitter to pose questions, not just answer them. And they ask and answer a whole slew of questions, not just “What are you doing?”. But just for a moment, I want to concentrate on this Twitter-defining question. In fact I want to refine it a bit:
What are you doing right now?
Why do I think this question is important to “the enterprise”? To answer that, I need to take you on a little wander, to something that John Seely Brown and John Hagel said some years ago:
Push systems — characterised by top-down, centralized and rigid programs of previously specified tasks and behavior — hinder participation in the distributed networks that are now indispensible to competitive advantage.
More versatile and far-reaching pull systems —characterized by modularly-designed decentralized platforms connecting a diverse array of participants — are now starting to emerge in a variety of arenas.
As pull systems reach center stage, executives will have to reassess almost all aspects of the corporation.
Don’t get too hung up about the push and pull; while it is important, the really important bit is the decentralized platform with diverse participants. Which is where Twitter comes in.
I heard the two Johns speak some years ago at Supernova, when they were just about to publish The Only Sustainable Edge. At the time, they were fresh from a study tour of China, mainly looking at manufacturing there. And something they described stayed with me: it was the way teams collaborated in a motorcycle factory that they’d visited and studied. The teams were agile, collocated, with line-of-sight of what was happening around them, and the empowerment to participate and assist their colleagues.
This concept of collocated line-of-sight is something that permeates a lot of Agile thinking. But sadly collocation is not always possible, and sometimes not even desirable. [More on that subject later].
What I see in Twitter is this: The ability for members of a distributed peer workforce to describe precisely what he or she is doing, and to share that description.
Out of this, I can foresee enterprise magic happening. Geographically dispersed team members are able to help each other out because suddenly they have line of sight of each other’s tasks, activities and processes.
More on this later. Comments welcome as always.