Social Business In 2012: Enter The Water Dragon - InformationWeek
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03:38 PM
Venkatesh Rao
Venkatesh Rao
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Social Business In 2012: Enter The Water Dragon

I hope to see the term "social business" bite the dust in 2012. Enterprise 2.0 is about individualism, data, new management models, and architecture.

Just watch a typical E 2.0 advocate freeze up in shock if somebody were to say: "This is nonsense, for our company, the closed, command-and-control model is still the right one."

They go speechless with anger. They have no idea how to even engage, let alone probe for the potential merit in what's being said and considering the possibility that the command-and-control guy might actually be right.

2012 is the year we'll be talking to people who may show us we're wrong about a lot of things.

Whether we dig in our heels or learn to drop ideology and admit when we're wrong (rather than accusing opponents of resisting "culture change") will determine if the Dragon will fly.

Well-Researched Decisions

Finally, it is time to level-up. We need higher standards of argumentation. Anecdotes are not enough. Vanity metrics are not enough. Ridiculous ROI calculations are not enough. Sloppy blog-level rhetoric is not enough.

It's time to come up with more ambitious thinking. We need to grow beyond IT and software and start talking about business model ideas and management concepts that match classic management literature in terms of breadth of perspective, depth of insight, and rigor of argumentation.

We need to aspire to the level of impact that the ideas of people like Peter Drucker, Michael Porter, Tom Peters, and Gary Hamel had over the course of the evolution of the 1.0 era of management.

The raw material is there: ecosystems, corporations-as-platforms, data-centric corporations, people-before-process, Marc Andreessen's idea of "software eating the world," David Kirkpatrick's idea that "every company is now a software company."

It's time to go big or go home.

This means putting all this raw material together into visions that are so persuasive, and reprogram minds so completely, that people go: "How did I EVER think differently?"

By the end of 2012, if we do our jobs, it should be as hard for people to think with 1.0 mental models as it is for people today to think with pre-email mental models.

The Outlook for 2012: Five Themes

I'll conclude with my set of top themes for 2012, that I will be exploring myself, and that I hope others among you will explore and talk about.

1. Data: The biggest trend in my opinion will be around data, not people. Firehoses, streams, plumbing, mining, warehousing (2.0 style), APIs, dashboards, analytics: expect to hear all those words a lot more.

2. The City: At E 2.0 in Santa Clara in November, dots I'd been waiting to see connected for years were finally connected. Expect to see a lot more cross-pollination between the E 2.0 approach to management and urban planning.

3. The Corporation as Platform: This meme has just started to gather a good head of steam. Expect it to go charging ahead. What do we mean by "platform"? Are we one? How do we become one? Expect these questions to be discussed.

4. Doom and Gloom: We are in a genuine depression masquerading as a recovered recession in my opinion, no matter what the econometric bean-counters say. I don't expect a psychological recovery to start before 2016. A big theme in 2012 will be companies that fail to go 2.0, with fatal consequences. I am looking forward to some good post-mortem thinking around failure-to-go-2.0. Somebody should start a deadpool website of companies that fail to make the transition. Borders would be one of the first entries.

5. Down with Social: "Social" has become the most over-used adjective in our little neck of the woods. It at once defines us badly and constrains us horribly. I place the blame entirely at the door of the Kumbaya-communitarians amongst us. Enterprise 2.0 is about far more than "social." It is about individualism, data, new management models, architecture. I hope to see the term "social business" bite the dust. It is trite, tautological, and limiting all at once.

With that, I'll sign off. Happy New Year, and may the Water Dragon fly high.

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Deb Donston-Miller
Deb Donston-Miller,
User Rank: Apprentice
12/27/2011 | 6:31:55 PM
re: Social Business In 2012: Enter The Water Dragon
Great article. I wanted to comment specifically on your Outlook 2012. I think most of what you say makes a lot of sense. I truly hope that we don't have to wait until 2016 to see a psychological recovery from the economic environment we have been in the last few years. But perhaps those who have been scarred by it (and who hasn't) will never quite "get over" it. As far as "social" being an over-used adjective, I'd put it right up there with "cloud." But, just as we hear the term "Web-based" less and less--as Web-based apps became the rule and not the exception--I think the same will hold true with social and even cloud. I don't think it will be long before an app stands out because it *doesn't* have social capabilities or some presence in the cloud.

Deb Donston-Miller
Contributing Editor, The Brainyard
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