The muse of social software

Summary:If you don't know JP Rangaswami, you should.  His Confused in Calcutta blog is must reading the 'new enterprise,'  how they should operate internally and relate to customers.

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If you don't know JP Rangaswami, you should.  His Confused in Calcutta blog is must reading the 'new enterprise,'  how they should operate internally and relate to customers. By day he is the chief of Alternative Market Models at the investment bank Dresdner Kleinwort Wasserstein in London. JP follows in the Bob Dylan (be sure to check out his just released CD, "Modern Times") tradition, in this case exploring the folklore of the enterprise computing space, not always easily comprehended, pulling in references from everywhere, a poet and he don't know it, the muse of social software, but so right about how the pendulum is swinging toward empowered individuals. He believes that new business models should have a clear stance on values and ethics; allow relationships and collaboration to take place; intermediate to enable trust and fulfilment rather than channel towards lock-in; and recognize that customers want to create and co-create value rather than just receive.

In a recent post, JP lays out his taxonomy of enterprise reactions to social software, such as blogs, wikis, tags and other elements that are having democratizing effect, meaning less control from a central authority or lock-in.

Stalinists: Even though there is some doubt as to whether he actually ever said it, Stalin is often credited with saying that as long as people know there is an election, it’s not the people who vote that count, it’s the people who count the votes. A variation of this tends to operate in enterprises, where “power” is vested in the presentation-makers and minute-takers. What social software does is threaten this power.
Sadists: Learning to do things in an enterprise can be painful. Learning to do hard things can be very painful. I have worked in a company where, in order to save on stationery costs, they instituted a process whereby the “stationery cupboard” was only open on Tuesdays between 2pm and 4pm; if that wasn’t enough, no stationery could be ordered unless a form was filled in; and forms were only made available on Tuesday mornings between 10am and 10.30am. Learning how an organisation works is often like growing ear hair. There are no short cuts, it just takes a long time. And causes much suffering. What social software does is threaten to take away this familiar pain, leaving phantom limb sensations.
Stockholmers: Similar to hostages forming an attachment to their captor (despite the invidiousness of their position) there is an enterprise tendency to form deep-rooted and long-lasting relationships with lock-in vendors. This syndrome comes in two flavours: Temporary and Permanent. The Temporary one is less intense, fading when there is a change of management on the enterprise side. The Permanent version is a real feat of engineering, able to withstand multiple changes of management. Nobody gets fired for buying locks. What social software does is threaten to release the hostages from their secure jails.
Second-guessers: Any swarming or emergence effect needs to have a swarm in the first place. One place. With the plethora of options available in Web Too Many Oh, this creates a paradox of choice. Freedom’s just another word for nothing left to choose. Second-guessers can stultify attempts to derive value from social software, by fragmenting the enterprise base in time and space. Space because they ensure multiple options are taken up simultaneously guaranteeing there is no critical mass, no liquidity. Time because they engineer an enterprise change-of-horse-in-midstream, never actually allowing the liquidity to be acquired. What social software does is threaten to take away the freedom of the second-guessers.
Sewer-dwellers: The ploy here is to define the battleground for social software as infrastructure, as plumbing. Even though it shouldn’t be the case, most enterprise buyers treat infrastructure as overpriced, oversold and over. As soon as the argument shifts to sewerage, the enterprise immune system has no problem repelling all boarders. This is despite the fact that social software has minimal infrastructure costs. Why do sewer-dwellers do this? Because it’s their home. What social software does is threaten to take away where they live.
Silobites: These are people who live in silos. Their jobs are to ensure that as much stuff as possible is stored in the silo, the bigger the silo the better they feel. They are defined by the walls. What social software does is threaten to take down these walls, building small connectors between silos.

Look at the things threatened. Power. Familiarity. Security. Housing. Freedom. Enough said.

Breaking down the walls. Themes from the 1960s, which pervade JP's musings and musical taste. After the cultural revolution of the 1960s, the Internet came along, creating the digitial revolution. The vast majority of enterprises just haven't caught on yet, but the times, they are a changin', to quote the master:

Come gather 'round people
Wherever you roam
And admit that the waters
Around you have grown
And accept it that soon
You'll be drenched to the bone
If your time to you
Is worth savin'
Or you'll sink like a stone
For the times they are a-changin'.

Topics: Tech Industry

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