The Enterprise Social Web We Lost

Around the time I was enmeshed in a deep existential crisis over my life’s work and current occupation, Anil Dash wrote this piece on his blog: The Web We Lost.  Somehow I missed that post when it was originally published, but it’s uncanny that he wrote it the same month I was essentially ruminating on the same basic premise. That the big promise of what we started out believing, started doing, was somehow slipping away.

When I look back to 2006, when Twitter was just a baby, there was such an amazing groundswell of passion around the possibilities we had to really change the working world.  In the same way developers and startup entrepreneurs wanted to unleash new apps and services to millions of consumers, those of us working with large enterprises, wanted to turn the industrial complex upside down, inside out, shake out the rotten core, and start over.

I remember finding a great blog one day by a “Corporate Punk” from Pfizer.  That corporate punk was Simon Revell who was cavorting around with his mate Scott Gavin and trying to launch a revolution from within. This slide deck exemplifies so much of the zeal that was circulating in the early days of Enterprise 2.0.  Incidentally, “Charlie” has nearly a quarter million views on Slideshare today.  Doesn’t sound like there isn’t any interest in this topic to me.

[slideshare id=73149&doc=an-enterprise-20-case-study4752]

While I was wandering through the desert of my mind in December of 2012 (actually on a lovely beach with my grandkids in Florida), I kept wondering… what happened to us?  When did we give up the fight?  When did we stop believing we could change the world?  And more importantly, hadn’t we already begun to see these dramatic changes we portended back then?  Of course, this is when I decided to go back at it, and we started Change Agents Worldwide.

Going back to Dash’s piece, we need to reclaim that irresistible rush of freedom we all felt when we first plugged into the social web. “This isn’t our web today. We’ve lost key features that we used to rely on, and worse, we’ve abandoned core values that used to be fundamental to the web world.”  There was such a strong sense of community among the players around the enterprise world who were blogging, connecting, riffing, creating the new out of the old.  It’s as if we were weaving a new world order made in our image – the image of mere mortals who could make a difference.  We shared a positive mental attitude and a belief that finally, finally decent, intelligent people could fix all the broken things.

Last week, I spotted this post by Pfizer’s CEO.  It raised a lot of issues within our network.  One comment: “And he talks about trust — again with respect to front line managers — without talking about trust in leadership, which is a big factor in forming culture. Ugggh, we’ve got so much work to do.”

Yes, we’ve still got a lot of work to do.  Let’s not lose sight of the big promise.

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