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The Social Enterprise – Welcome to the Era of Intrapreneurship!
Luis Suarez    

Gran Canaria - Maspalomas Lighthouse - Meloneras in the WinterThere is probably very little doubt out there still about the huge potential, and impact, that Social Networking has been having within the corporate world over the last few years, to the point where a few folks have ventured into suggesting that we are witnessing the tipping point of how we are redefining the Future of the Workplace itself, something that has become, over time, one of my favourite topics as of late and which has finally triggered a thought that’s been lingering in my mind for a quite a bit already: from now onwards I’ll stop talking about Social Business (And leave it down to those folks who coined it first, for our own social goodand, instead, move on with “The Social Enterprise”. And, more specifically, I would like to welcome you all to The Era of Intrapreneurship!

There are plenty of blog posts out there that have covered very well the topic of “The Future of the Workplace” and the impact of social computing in helping shape up the business world to become a whole lot more open, engaged, transparent and nimble. However, there is one particular article out there that became one of my all time favourite ones around this very same topic, and more than anything else, because it describes, pretty well, how work has evolved with the emergence of the Social Web in the last few years. I am not sure whether you folks may have read it already or not, but, if you haven’t, it’s probably one of those blog entries that I would consider an essential reading for people who are interested in getting a glimpse of what lies ahead, if not already! Check out Irving Wladawsky-Berger‘s “A New Style of Work“.

Irving’s blog is probably one of the most refreshing, enlightening and entertaining reads you can bump into at the Internet Blogosphere. In case you may not have subscribed to it already, I can surely recommend you do so. And that blog post I mentioned above would certainly confirm why it’s a worth while read time and time again. In that article he basically defines the work life of Trust Agents, what I would call as well Wild Ducks, that group of knowledge Web workers who do lots of smart work together gathering in social networks, communities and whatever other informal groupings to carry out that piece of work they are truly passionate about and connected with one another due to a common affinity. Nothing to do with hierarchies, nor with organisations, nor with project teams, just plain wirearchy, without which all three of those would probably not exist today, as we know them. Apparently, what Tom Foremski has defined as an “atomic” business model as well.

A New Style of Work” is a wonderful trip down the memory lane as well that will certainly act as a refreshing reminder of what the Web used to be and what it is today and, clearly, this particular quote states what’s meant for each and everyone of us as individual knowledge workers:

My time is now my own. I have a lot more flexibility and personal choice in what I do and how I spend my days. The boundaries between work and personal life, already very porous when working at IBM, are practically non-existent.

But, as a self-employed individual, I am also on my own. While the various institutions I work with provide me some degree of support, their infrastructure and processes are geared to support their full time employees, not part-time professionals and contractors. I thus have had to come up with my own infrastructure and processes suitable for my present distributed work style

To then finish it off with this other insightful quote that I am sure plenty more knowledge Web workers out there would agree with blindfolded:

“The Web has now essentially become my primary work infrastructure. My work processes are essentially web-based processes. While I use physical offices when spending time at any one of the institutions I work with, by primary office is the Web. My primary business address is someplace out there in the cloud

This is exactly what I meant with the title of this blog post when welcoming you all to the Social Enterprise and the Era of Intrapreneurship. You are not reading it wrong. I actually meant every letter: The Era of Intrapreneurship. An era, where thanks to the Social Web, whether internal or external, or both!, knowledge workers, for the first time ever, are now in charged of their own productivity, of their own workflows and personal business relationships with others, of their own responsibility not only towards the work that needs to be done, but also towards the fellow peers they collaborate and share their knowledge with. Thanks to that Social Enterprise we are starting to see how knowledge Web workers are becoming a whole lot more open, public and transparent in narrating their own work, therefore making observable work an integral, critical and paramount activity at the workplace; we are starting to witness how knowledge workers are shaking off their fears for the work they do, or don’t do! as well the fears of no longer being considered indispensable, despite the the huge amount of knowledge they have accumulated over the course of the years, or those other fears of no longer being considered the experts they once thought they were. In short, fear is out, having fun @ work is in.

It’s that social revolution that we are witnessing entering, slowly, but steadily, the corporate world, that’s certainly going to help us move along, not thinking along the terms of becoming a social business, but more embracing that social transformation that trojan mice typically would provoke as intrapreneurs. It’s that social revolution and transformation that will help us all understand how critical it is for each and everyone of us having the right access not only to relevant information and content resources, but also access to the people behind it by nurturing and cultivating those relationships and networks on a regular basis in order to make better, smarter, more sensible and more informed decisions, regardless of wherever we may well be, whether in a physical office location, or while working from home, while travelling or while at a customer site. What will matter then is how work will start shifting around us, and not the other way around, as it’s been happening all along over the last few decades. Iriving’s account of how, amongst several other social flavours, mobility, i.e. going mobile, and blogging, specially, as one of the most powerful ingredients to help boost your own personal brand vs. that one of the corporation (as I have blogged about over here myself a few days back) is probably as good as it gets in helping set the stage of how the workplace has been transformed into something so empowering as helping employees take a bit more co-responsibility of their own workflows, without having to wait for orders, or being told what they would need to do. Quite the opposite, in most cases, the center of gravity has been, finally, lowered down tremendously, to the point where it’s through those informal social networks and communities they themselves co-facilite the ones who will be defining what work needs to get done and with whom.

Something that, to me, represents the true spirit of Entrepreneurship, in our case, for this article, Intrapreneurship. Something that, for the first time in a long while, could be classified as a truly inspirational social revolution that will help transform not only how we do business, but also how we behave as human beings in our very own societies. My dear friend, Susan Scrupski, couldn’t have put it in much better words than this wonderful gem she shared earlier on today to describe what I have meant all along with that social revolution within the enterprise:

“[...] The zeitgeist of Social is about introducing the promises of Web 2.0 (Openness, egalitarianism) to reinvent the way things have been done in prior eras, evolved from industrial age principles, e.g. Taylorism.

Social is not about anarchy ; it’s about freedom and democracy and innovation. It’s not about rigid structures and hierarchies; it’s about transparency and honesty and re-distributing power to create agile change motivated by passionate, engaged actors. It’s about leadership that rewards and recognises talent and instinctively has a collective understanding of the community it serves, because it’s tuned into what they think, as well as what they do. It’s about authenticity and trust. (Yes, trust)”

Like I said, I couldn’t have put it in better words than those and if you haven’t read the entire piece I would strongly encourage you all to go ahead and do so and go through the highlights of a keynote with 45k attendees that may have marked the beginning of that Social Revolution within the Enterprise itself.

Essentially, this is not about becoming a Social Business; because with the word “Business”, we lose all of the original intent that sparked the creation of that Web 2.0 movement back in the day that Susan talked about in her post. We need to go beyond that! Further beyond that! This is all about embracing and living a new state of social empowerment that will break the status-quo within the Enterprise, and I do realise that for plenty of people out there I may be in fantasy land myself and won’t probably see it in my lifetime or perhaps a bit too deep into my Hippie 2.0 shoes, but just like recent global events have shown us, we are witnessing a truly unique historic moment where, now more than ever, it would be up to each and everyone of us to decide where we stand, i.e. whether we would want to co-lead it, or wait for it to blow us all away without remedy and no point of return! It’s your choice. It’s our choice. And I guess, if you have been reading this blog for a while, you know on which side I would be standing, right?

… Well, what about you though? Are you also a wild duck, one of those critical trust agents, intrapreneurs ready to co-lead that social change within your own enterprise? Are you ready to drop Social Business and instead continue to live the Social Enterprise Revolution we all once truly believed in, when we all thought we could change the world with the Social Web? What do you think?

Of course! Come on and join us! The waters have always been lovely!

Sep 05, 2011
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