Is Enterprise 2.0 Learned From a Book or From Doing?

Last week, I participated in AIIM’s Enterprise 2.0 Practitioner Certificate program, a two-day course focused on learning the principles and best practices of Enterprise 2.0 – social media behind the firewall.  Now, I’ll admit, I was extremely skeptical of this course when I first heard about it.  I don’t think that social media or Enterprise 2.0 is something that you can learn about from a book, course, class, or test.  I think that above all, it’s learned from doing.

It’s one thing to read that successful Enterprise 2.0 deployments are about changing a culture and not about implementing a new tool, but it’s another thing entirely to actually do it.  I think the most successful social media efforts are those that are driven by passionate people who love people and who truly want to change the way their organization operates, not by people with degrees, certificates, or titles.

So when several of my colleagues urged me to enroll in the two-day AIIM Enterprise 2.0 Practitioner Certificate program, I didn’t really pay much attention to it at first.  However, I figured I should at least do some research into the program to see if it would be worth my time.  I was pleasantly surprised to see that a number of social media luminaries that I respect were involved in the development of the course – Andew McAfee, David Weinberger, Stowe Boyd, Patti Anklam and Eric Tsui.  Well, ok, if those guys were involved, I figured I’d give it a try.

I wanted to be challenged by this course, to get out of the social media echo chamber and get different perspectives, and to learn about specific strategies/tactics that have been successful elsewhere.  I didn’t just want to learn what I needed to pass some test.

Day One

Along with 20 or so of my colleagues working on Booz Allen’s own deployment of an Enterprise 2.0 platform, our first day began with our instructor, Hanns Kohler-Kruner, leading us through an activity to determine what Enterprise 2.0 was about – was it about culture?  Technology?  Innovation?  Tools?  All of the above?  After seemingly hundreds of slides of definitions, acronyms, models, and terms, I started re-thinking my decision to enroll.  I wasn’t a fan.  It soon became clear that the attendees of this class were far more advanced in Enterprise 2.0 than the typical attendee.

Hanns did an admirable job of adjusting his teaching style to include conversation and less lecture, and he promised to totally re-work the material for Day Two.  The material from Day One was best suited for someone who has little to no knowledge/experience with Enterprise 2.0, and is interested in discovering the basics.

What I Liked:

  • The adjustments that Hanns made to accommodate the audience
  • The occasional conversations/debates that the course attendees had

What I Didn’t Like:

  • Hundreds of slides!!
  • Too much lecture, not enough conversation and brainstorming
  • Curriculum seemed to be too focused on teaching you what you need to pass the test rather than having discussions about Enterprise 2.0 strategy
  • No hands-on application of the tools we were discussing
  • Very little discussion of what’s worked/what hasn’t

Day Two

Before even arriving for Day Two, I was excited to find Hanns on Twitter that night, responding to our #aiim tweets from the first day.  I was really looking forward to the conversations about more advanced E2.0 strategies and tactics instead of definitions of terms that I would need only to pass a test.

Discussions on Day Two centered around the right balance of policies, rules, guidelines, and best practices for internal wikis; the risks of open vs. closed networks; and the need for open/transparent communication between IT and the user community. Some of the choice nuggets from the second day included:

“Stop focusing on the HUGE task of changing culture, and instead focus on changing habits.”

“Give people the tools and the time to do their work inside the firewall and they’re less likely to use less secure applications on the Internet.”

“The IT staff HAS to communicate regularly with their users and remain flexible and adaptable to their needs rather than their own wants and desires.”

For me, there were two big takeaways from Day Two.  1) Enterprise 2.0 tools like blogs, social networking, wikis, etc. aren’t some panacea – there is still a place for email, for face-to-face meetings, and for other “old-school” tactics.  And 2) Enterprise 2.0 isn’t a set of tools, it’s a mindset.  The actual tools don’t matter as much as how you use them.  Organizations can have blogs and wikis and still have just as many silos of information and isolated information as one that doesn’t use any of these tools.  Just as organizations without any of these new tools can still be open, transparent and participatory.

What I Liked:

  • The open, free-flowing conversation where ideas were debated and assumptions were challenged
  • The instructor was not only on Twitter, he’s been actively using E2.0 tools internally at AIIM
  • The breakout groups where we worked together to help fictional organizations
  • The slides had been completely re-adjusted for our needs

What I Didn’t Like:

  • Hundreds of Slides!!
  • Too focused on structured models and not enough on the cultural norms/nuances
  • Not enough discussion about real-life Enterprise 2.0 examples

Following Day Two, we were all given a link to an online test consisting of 64 multiple choice/true-false questions.   This is where I was most disappointed with the course.  In taking the test, I quickly became annoyed that the questions were completely objective, focused on testing my knowledge of theoretical models and frameworks (e.g., “True or False: The tags described in the FLATNESSES model do not include meta-tags”), rather than on real-life Enterprise 2.0 practices.  Seriously, I could care less if someone can recite what that acronym means.  Why does that even matter?  I’m more concerned with answering questions like, “You’ve just implemented an enterprise-wide wiki – what are the arguments for/against keeping it completely open vs. allowing some private wiki spaces?”

Overall, I’d give the course a C.  I don’t think Enterprise 2.0 can be learned from a book – it needs to be experienced.  In the future, I’d like to see them shift the focus away from lecture (as Hanns did so aptly on Day Two) and more toward facilitated conversation.  I’d also like to see more use of these actual tools – how about an intstructor’s blog where we could all interact with our instructor before, during, and after the course?  Lastly, and most importantly, I’d recommend that AIIM incorporate some sort of # of months/hours of hands-on experience actually involved with Enterprise 2.0, a la the Project Management Professional requirements to have at least 4500 hours of direct project management experience.  Without this requirement, I’m scared that people will become “Enterprise 2.0 Certified Practitioners,” so they can cash in on this hot topic right now without ever actually having done any Enterprise 2.0 at all.

*Image courtesy of Flickr user billerickson

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About sradick

I'm an SVP, Senior Director at BCW in Pittsburgh. Find out more about me here (

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