A Confused thread that’s been using up some of my cycles

1. Groups are here to stay. Period.
2. Enterprises, even governments, are nothing more than groups. Extreme forms of groups, but groups nevertheless.
3. Groups are made of people. So too are enterprises, so too are governments.
4. All this has been true for a very long time. But something’s changed.
5. What’s changed is the quality of group tools, a point that Clay Shirky makes, beautifully, in Here Comes Everybody.
6. What’s changed is the democratised nature of the group tools: they are truly group rather than individual- or hierarchical-pretending-to-be-group.
7. What’s changed is the adoption curve associated with the group tools: Modern group tools are being used by “people” first and “enterprises” later.
8. So for the first time enterprise group tools are actually being designed and stretched and proven and used by the people who will use them in the enterprise. Before they enter the enterprise.
9. The people aren’t ready for enterprises. And the enterprises aren’t ready for the people.
10. The battleground is “security”. And “confidentiality”. And “privacy”. And “identity”. And “control”. All one and the same thing, actually.

That’s what I’ve been thinking about. What are the implications of my trying to derive value from Linus’s Law in an enterprise? In government? How do I get “enough eyeballs” on something?

That’s what I’ve been thinking about. What does it mean to be “private” in an enterprise, particularly a regulated enterprise? People who work in investment banks are used to “loss of privacy”: calls recorded, e-mails scanned, that kind of thing.

11 thoughts on “A Confused thread that’s been using up some of my cycles”

  1. Hey JP,

    I actually don’t agree that “enterprises are nothing more than groups” (point 2). In fact, this is pretty much the cause of any conflicts from point 9.

    An enterprise possesses long-term memories and knowledge about itself in a way that a generic “group” does not. More than this, an enterprise prefers to shape itself to ensure the orderly capture of new memories and knowledge, and Web 2.0-style groups often bypass these mechanisms.

  2. Agreed, Kishore. Trust belongs to that list.

    Stephen, with reference to institutional memory, I would suggest that modern tools HELP retain institutional memory rather than the other way around.

    Consensus management relied on institutional memory: when a team member made a sacrifice, the others would “remember”, time was not a factor. This was true in times of low attrition.

    As job mobility increased, the capacity to retain institutional memory reduced. Human capital “walked out the door”.

    Now, with modern group tools, institutional memory has the capacity to become persistent. Archivable. Searchable. Retrievable. None of which was true for prior forms of institutional memory.

    In fact, prior forms led to corruption, to selective memory, to fiefdoms and godfathers and generally tribal behaviours.

    Because the memory that appeared to persist was subjective and biased and based on “information is power” control. Many of the mechanisms you speak of, the mechanisms that are being bypassed by modern tools, they were fundamentally about power and control not memory or learning.

  3. As someone married to an HR manager, I’d suggest that #9 might actually be reimagined as:

    “People don’t work for enterprises – they work for each other. And enterprises simply don’t understand people.”

    Time and again, Alli (the HR manager – see her excellent, if infrequent, blog) and I see enterprises cruel themselves by trying to treat people as if the dark satanic mill was a possibility in the 21st Century, expecting them to come in and work mindlessly and unquestioningly in their cubes for eight hours a day.

    While I’m preaching to the choir, those of us reading and participating here know people simply don’t work that way, and the sooner business around the world revisits the Industrial Age factory model so many of them continue to base themselves upon, the sooner people and enterprise will be ready for each other.

  4. Love this post.

    Couple of thoughts:

    * Groups aren’t defined by employees. People work with people, a lot of those groups include people who don’t work at the company.

    * On #10–there are lots of wars. The big one that we see is “people vs files.” Do we start with the notion that file sharing and lots of independent features add up to what groups need or do we start with what groups need and get everyone in the same room having the big conversations so that features just support that act? Yes, files may come out of that but it’s not the central paradigm.

  5. Lets see if we can synthesis this. People recognise each other through the tokens they display (if I carry a rose through a shopping mall people will recognise it as a token). Tokens have values (in the case of the rose, different people will attach their own values to the rose to interpret what sort of token it is and what it may represent). Values are how people interpret tokens in different environments and in different communicative environments at specific times.

    Groups form round broadly common interpretations of tokens (‘there goes a romantic man carrying a rose and share a ‘knowing’ smile and form a group).

    Groups form round tokens representing a nexus of common values and that applies to people and to organisations.

    They always did. We are programmed to be social animals. Its in our DNA. Our big brains dictate this as a survival more.

    But now groups can see values globally, now and historically using the internet – the democratised nature of communication.

    People and organisations that try to pretend, shield or manipulate values attributed to tokens are fundamentally attacking human nature – our DNA is offended.

    People and companies do harm when they obfuscate values.

    The nature of the social group is to cast them out.

    The battle ground is as you say, and trust and much more, but mostly the battle ground is denying the big brained human desire to be comfortable in a group with common values, environment and interactive capability from time to time.

    People are not fixed in the values they hold dear, their beliefs, or their ability to respond the ideas or events.

    Thus there is an extent to which from time to time we adopt or suspend “security”. And “confidentiality”. And “privacy”. And “identity”. And “control”. And trust.

    Until we share that ‘knowing smile’ when we become a homogeneous ‘group’ – when we share token in a belief that we all have common values attaching to the token.

    To see dissonance, just examine the metadata for most web pages. Webmasterspeak often ignore the publics values and the people aren’t ready for enterprise’s webmaster and the enterprises isn’t ready for the people but the thesis is true:
    1. Groups are here to stay (the nexus of values). Period.
    2. Enterprises, even governments, are nothing more than groups (the nexus of values). Extreme forms of groups, but groups nevertheless.
    3. Groups are made of people. So too are enterprises, so too are governments (the nexus of values).

  6. J P I wonder of one of the barriers is the IT it’s all about security mindset. I liked Chris Anderson’s solution at Wired where they have 2 networks – the formal one that is secure and has all the enterprise stuff – And the open network that has all the social stuff and they access outside.

    I mention this because of a meeting I had last week at a university – there is no way that the university will open up the enterprise net.

    Many corporations feel the same don’t they? So even if there are those inside that want to knit the groups into networks – without the tools, they can’t

  7. there is a really interesting conversation between clay shirky and daniel goleman (the author of emotional intelligence) which you can listen to free samples of at morethansound.net

  8. Hi JP, good to have you back.
    The groups issue excercised me recently, in respect to the rumours that twitter is to implement them.
    There are alarm bells for me in groups in twitter for several reasons, but most of my concerns can be alleviated by one simple change to the usual construction of groups: everyone gets to have equal rights. Not just the founder, not just the founder and his officers, not just the admin. everyone. Everyone gets to decide on who else gets to join the group, too.
    I wrote a little about it in the context of twitter, but I wonder if the thinking might help your journey?

Let me know what you think

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.