July 7, 2008

Communication, culture, and short text messages

Tom Davenport offers a lot of skepticism and a little hope about Enterprise 2.0:

Most of the barriers that prevent knowledge from flowing freely in organizations – power differentials, lack of trust, missing incentives, unsupportive cultures, and the general busyness of employees today – won’t be addressed or substantially changed by technology alone. For a set of technologies to bring about such changes, they would have to be truly magical, and Enterprise 2.0 tools fall short of magic.

I freely admit, however, to one key uncertainty. It’s going to be very interesting to see what happens when the young bucks and buckettes of today’s wired world hit the adult work force. Will they freely submit to such structured information environments as those provided by SAP and Oracle, content and knowledge management systems, and communication by email? Or will they overthrow the computational and communicational status quo with MySpace, MyBlog, and MyWiki?

His argument makes especial sense against the kind of technology that expects people to create documents — e.g., wiki pages or portal elements — that may or may not be read by anybody else. But I don’t think they’re as powerful against proposals to increase the use of short text messaging.

I’ve advocated recently for increased use both of simple instant messaging and filtered microblogging. The main reason I like short text messages so much is that, at least in theory, they improve on what was one of killer advantages of email — optional synchronicity. Want to reach somebody right away? You can. Want to respond at your leisure? You can. Want to segue straight into a full-speed dialogue (including by picking up the phone of you get tired of typing)? You can.

Short text messages are so versatile that they fit into pretty much any kind of communication culture.


One Response to “Communication, culture, and short text messages”

  1. Daniel Weinreb on July 7th, 2008 6:06 am

    I sense a bit of confusion in the Tom Davenport’s posting. Sometimes he’s talking about whether information will flow freely in an organization, and other times he’s talking about whether an organization will become more democratic, with a front-line worker’s opinion as important as that of the CEO. The latter certainly isn’t going to happen just from technology, if it happens at all. But the former does not strike me as problematic. At my workplace, we have an in-house Wiki, and also an in-house document management system, which have been quite helpful in allowing information to flow between us.

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