What makes individuals and organizations embrace Enterprise 2.0? There’s a friendly but sharp ideological debate playing itself out on Twitter, the blogosphere, and in conference breakout sessions.
I think it’s confused.
On one side, there’s a group–I’ll call them the “Kumbaya Crowd”–who believe that a spirit of altruism, sharing, and teamwork for the common good are what drive use of blogs, wikis, microblogging, and social networking. For the Kumbaya Crowd, E2.0 adoption is all about culture. They fret about how to create a “culture of sharing” inside companies. They bemoan the lack of such a culture in most organizations, which they see as venal, greed-rewarding places which reward the cutthroat and punish the generous.
On the other side of the debate–I’ll call them the “Gecko Group” after Mike Douglas’s famously slick-haired, greed-praising character in the ’80s-epitomizing film Wall Street–who believe that Enterprise 2.0 adoption is all about creating personal incentives. According to the Gecko Group, we should accept the fact that employee behavior is driven by personal profit-seeking. We should even embrace it. Companies run on personal greed and ambition. If you want people to use Enterprise 2.0 tools, then make it worth their while by tying it to personal profit.
The Kumbaya Crowd and the Gecko Group share a common picture of what motivates individuals. They both think it’s all about maximizing personal profit. The difference is that the Kumbaya Crowd wants to change employee motivations, whereas the Gecko Group wants to harness personal profit motive to drive adoption.
It’s easy to see why the Kumbaya Crowd and the Gecko Group share this picture. It’s the picture that classical economists tell us drives all rational behavior. According to the economist’s model, rational decision-makers are constantly optimizing for their own profit. The Kumbaya Crowd and the Gecko Group have simply taken that concept and applied it to Enterprise 2.0.
There’s only one problem: People don’t really work that way. As Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein argue brilliantly in Nudge, human beings aren’t “Econs”–the idealized profit-maximizers at the center of the economic theory. The behavior of flesh-and-blood people is driven by a complex range of motivations, of which personal profit is only one.
Looking at personal motivation in the workplace, I see five fundamental forces that shape why we do what we do:
- Learning – Having new experiences, getting exposure to new situations, acquiring new skills
- Impact – Seeing your efforts translate into results
- Recognition – Getting personal kudos, building your personal brand or reputation
- Camaraderie – Interacting with other people, being social
- Compensation – Base pay, bonuses, and extra rewards
To influence Enterprise 2.0 adoption, these are the forces to harness. It’s not about a simple trade-off of selfishness v. altruism; it’s about crafting a compelling value proposition in terms of learning, impact, recognition, camaraderie, and compensation.
The good news is that, as measured against these dimensions, the Enterprise 2.0 value proposition can be quite strong.
- Learning – These tools are all about learning real-time from your colleagues, and learning a better way of working
- Impact – The tools make teams and individuals more productive. You will get more done.
- Recognition – The tools increase the transparency of personal contribution, and is a great way to build your personal reputation or brand. (BTW, don’t be surprised if you get a call from the CEO thanking you for your contribution.
- Camaraderie – Online collaboration, social networking, and micromessaging are a great way to stay connected with the colleagues you care about, even when you’re not physically co-located
- Compensation – Engagement and contribution will factor into your performance evaluations; this is part of what we pay you to do.
I’m not saying that every company must use all five forces to generate adoption. The mix varies by company, by department, and even by individual. But anyone who is looking to roll out Enterprise 2.0 solutions should examine the full range of forces and think about how to harness each.
And please, let’s save Kumbaya and Geckos for the Great Outdoors.