Thursday, November 26, 2009

Who is in the driving seat of Enterprise 2.0 adoption?

I've followed Bertrand Duperrin for a long time and enjoyed his writings on his blog. When reading his latest post "Does driving adoption mean being off the point?", my thoughts really got spinning. Fast. I have to admit that I had to read Bertrand's post several times before I finally (I think) got the message. It then became clear to me that my original thoughts were spinning in a completely different direction than Betrand’s. The main reason is that I started out with my own definitions of the terms “driving” and “adoption” instead of the definitions that Bertrand used. I advice you to read his full post to get the message, but here is a small teaser:

if adoption implies spontaneity and a choice that’s not made under duress, driving means make people do something unnatural because if it were natural people would adopt without any external intervention.

Since I used the my own definitions of these terms, my reasoning below should not be seen an argument against Betrand’s reasoning, but rather as an alternative perspective on the expression and concept of “driving adoption”.

To me, adoption is about leaving something old for something new, such as leaving the practice of writing status reports in documents and emailing them to your team members and instead publish them on wiki where you can all contribute.

Adoption can happen voluntarily, or involuntarily (forced upon you). Inbetween these two extremes, there is a sliding scale. Regardless, adoption always happen under some kind and degree of influence from one or several external forces. It can be that management and the pressured financial situation at work requires you to change your practices. Or it can be that you are subject to peer pressure from your colleagues. Or maybe you just decide to follow someone elses example because it makes sense to you. Or it is that you are expected by others try out new things and that they let you lead the way. My point here is that I don't think there is a situation where you adopt something without any kind and degree of external influence.

I think the expression "driving adoption" has bad a bad ring to many people. Maybe it is because it suggests that you are forced to leave something old for something new (which not necessarily has to be something better from your perspective). Maybe it is because it suggests that you have little to no control over the adoption, that you have no choice. Someone decided to introduce a new policy, routine, or system and you just have to adapt and adopt, like it or not. That is how things typically are done in the 1.0 world.

But what if "driving" just is meant to describe the external influence that moves things in a certain direction? Couldn't that external influence be anyone and anything, such as that you get an invite from a friend to start using a new web-based tool?

As I see it, what is being changed is WHO is in the driving seat and HOW the adoption is being driven. Instead of your boss being in the driving seat, with you in the back seat, it might be that it is your collegue, or a group of people that you belong to, or your friend who is in the driving seat. People you trust. The friend who is inviting you to the new web-based tool is not forcing you to change your ways, but rather triggering your curiosity and recommending the tool to you, suggesting that it will be of value to you. Since you trust your friend, you listen to what she has to say. It feels natural to follow in her footsteps and you decied to give the web-based tool a chance.

The thing is that adoption is still driven in this scenario. What is different is who is in the driving seat and what driving style and technique that person or group is using.

1 comment:

  1. You're right. That's why I defined the meaning of the words. Like "social", "communities" and things like that, what matters is not only what they mean to you but what they mean to people you're talking to.

    I'll explain my thoughts in a more detailed way later but all the discussions around this post ( two languagesn what provides me with a cross-cultural feedback) makes me think that driving adoption has to seen under two different angles :

    - adoption leader : spreading the message, leading the way, convincing.

    - users : have to be shown an easy to understand and direct benefit related to their day to day assigned tasks. My favorite example is about manufacturing machines : no need much effort to explain workers why they should use them insted of relying on their handwork on an assembly line. That's the same for using a car instead of walking for delivery man.

    Both are necessary. But adoption leaders won't impact "ground workers" for the only reason they are disconnected from their daily reality. The missing link is middle management.

    So, to make people adopt something (what is not driving adoption), one has to lead and evangelize from the top and rely on line management to align day to day work and make things make sense (so put one's hand on "bottom" things)

    Message + reasons to concretely implement it is one of the best way to get things done. (Globally speaking...we all know that each each company needs its own approach, according to its own context).