All comments posted on this blog do not reflect the opinions of any organization that I am affiliated with. These are my personal perspectives only.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Enterprise 2.0, Extreme Simplicity & Culture: Lessons from the iPOD

So Apple has come out with their iPhone... Chalk full of new features & new functionality... Will it do to the cell phone what the iPod did to the MP3 Player? And what does this have to do with Enterprise 2.0 and culture?

When the iPod came out, it was by no means the first MP3 player. In fact MP3 Players had been out years prior. The unveiling undoubtedly underwhelmed many "analysts", (in my mind I can hear the sarcastic Monty Python line, "and there was much rejoicing... yay. "). The iPod focused on extreme simplicity. When Apple's designers were building the prototype and pointed out that it "obviously" needed an on/off button, Steve Jobs made an executive decisions forbidding any such thing. The wheel was introduced because, trying to push a button to scroll through a 1000 songs was simply not "friendly". It's true, the integration of iTunes also played a part of this amazing story for iPod but for this blog, I'll just focus on the "extreme simplicity" / "Extreme Usability" concept.

Apple's challenge with the iPhone however is that it has lot it's stealth. In other words, people will not dismiss Apple introducing something new regardless of what it is. This time everyone will take note. The iPhone is following the same principles of extreme usability. So regardless of the functionality as this will constantly change, the usability factor will always be the more critical. Those who mistake functionality vs usability will go down the wrong path since functionalities will always improve and advance.

Enter, Enterprise 2.0... The world of wikis, blogs, mashups, etc... Although relatively new, the studies so far indicate that the value of Enterprise 2.0 is still very limited. Harvard Professor, Andrew McAfee identifies that Enterprise 2.0 appears to only find adoption in the techno-savvy or recent graduates (figure to left).

This leaves a large "empty quarter". In any organization, especially older organizations, this is a significant number of the employee base that may never participate in mass collaboration opportunities provided by web 2.0 in the enterprise. The knowledge and insight in this crowd however is paramount. Over and over again, the evidence such as Jim Collins work in "Good to Great" indicate, greatness requires deep insight only afforded through rich experience & organizational wisdom.

So if we need this empty quarter to participate, and we have the tools to allow for collaboration, how do we tap into their insight? The common answer suggests evangelizing to this group. Changing the culture so they become included. For those involved with culture change will realize that this is by no way a simple feat! Perhaps it's not about changing the culture so they adopt but rather simplifying the experience and focusing on the individual. This viral approach could then result in a corporate culture shift. Perhaps we can learn something from the iPOD.

Although I haven't done my own quantitative studies, I suspect that the MP3 Market, prior to the iPOD followed a similar pattern to that of Enterprise 2.0. Recent grads & techno-savvy were the adopters... Apple could have came up with a similar product and attempted to "evangelize" the features and functionalities. Perhaps try to change the "culture" to increase adoption. They didn't (well not at first). Instead they focused on extreme usability which dives deeper than the "cultural" aspects into the "individual". By stripping away the fluff, and focusing on extreme usability the individual needs & wants could be addressed. If you like music you'll like the iPod. We don't need to convince you it's worth the headaches of understanding the technology because there are no headaches.

Same thing for massive collaboration and Enterprise 2.0. Deeper than the corporate culture are the individual motivators. I am not going to dive into Maslow's hierarchy on this blog but it is related. The individual need to communicate, and be part of social group is a core attribute. Man by nature is a social creature. Enterprise 2.0, if made extremely usable can tap into this. The impact could mean that rather than changing the culture so they adopt Enterprise 2.0 technologies, that Enterprise 2.0 technologies could change the culture through the individual. Evangelism should consider this, and move away from justifying the complex and focus on extreme simplicity.


Stephen Hayward said...

I think the other observation along with the simplicity of usability was the cool factor.

This also can exist in the Enterprise. If the people in the empty quadrant see someone using the tools and easily getting the value that is positioned, they will also be more open to the concept.

Kind of reminds me of the Tipping Point book. said...

Rex, you're spot on, with your "ipod-sizing" of the applications. But then you immediately start to look at the large SAP's of this world to initiate this.
Their first step is to scale BACK their # of features to make it more E2.0 compliant.
As you can imagine a big and expensive task.
We at Tenforce,are doing this at a smaller scale with a SW tool we developed 3 years ago for Program and Project Management.
Feel free to follow our process at

Rex Lee said...

For those interested in this topic, Alex Barnett has some interesting comments as well on this.