The “initiative” challenge

I am going to be doing a keynote at the Enterprise 2.0 Summit London at the end of the month. It is increasingly unusual for me to speak at a conference with those words in the title, or social business, or social anything for that matter. For some time I have preferred to talk at conferences focussed on specific aspects of doing business, or specific professions. Conferences that aren’t all about social.

I am doing this one because it is being run by good folks and will give me a chance to catch up, but I am going to base my keynote on why I feel uncomfortable with the whole E2.0, social business thing. I guess I have a bit of a chip on my shoulder about initiatives. Probably a result of the number of times I had them done to me while at the BBC. It is also because I believe passionately that real change happens one person at a time and for their reasons not yours. Initiatives are done to them rather than by them.

I guess this is the old problem of how do you encourage things to happen, encourage people to behave differently, make it more likely that change makes a positive difference, without reverting to the conventional management techniques and processes that are part of the problem we are trying to solve!

4 thoughts on “The “initiative” challenge

  1. For me there is a lot of ‘fluff’ around becoming a social enterprise that is not helpful and is actually detrimental to landing it right (the old ‘facebook for business’ parallels). We (that is people in big orgs) are literally bombarded by stuff and people are part confused / part outright annoyed at ‘all this stuff’ being hurled at them half the time. If you cut through all that and improve a persons day to day by making a process better, and that happens to be through this ‘social’ thing, then job done. And that always entails the person / department in charge of ‘social’ understanding the business for themselves. A ‘lets get down to brass tacks’ conversation. My rant for the morning before my week begins!


  2. This really resonates with me Euan. Years ago I wanted to fix the communication culture of the entire organisation I was working for at the time (I was clearly suffering from delusions of grandeur). Had I been a senior manager I probably would have given my initiative a name with the word social in it.

    But I learnt fairly quickly (or is after a year quickly?) that change happens when a very specific, and very painful, problem is solved in a new way. Ideally a specific problem both senior managers and frontline employees give a shit about. If only I’d known that initiatives don’t get you anywhere and focused on search for the Perfect Problem I might have actually made a real difference. Or at least built enough momentum for other people to hop on the wave and make a real difference.


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