There’s something wrong with all of the names we use to describe the use of social web tools in business. They are wrong for various reasons whether Enterprise 2.0 or Social Business or whatever. At risk of adding another inappropriate name to the list I have been thinking that in many ways what we are really talking about is “literate business”. This is probably because I have been reading a lot about writing in preparation for writing my book – the idea of thinking through writing, getting a shitty first draft down and then critiquing it, refining ideas through the process of sharing them, etc..
It occurred to me that what is significant about the tools we are seeing creeping into the business world is not so much that they are social as that they are literary in nature. They require, at whatever level, people to observe the world around them, make sense of it, and convey that sense to others, mostly, through the written word. All three parts of this process are the essence of good literature and they are all relatively unfamiliar in the business world. Most people don’t pay much attention to what is going on around them, they don’t sit and think much about what it means, and they are very unlikely to take the time to sit down and write about it. This is what blogging or tweeting makes easier. It also makes it collective.
It is this possibility of businesses being collectively literate, in a way fundamentally different from the turgid, disconnected, process related documentation that we currently spend so much time, money and effort creating and storing. David Weinberger once said that through blogging we were “writing ourselves into existence” maybe this is what we are seeing happen in the world of work?