7 web 2.0 words to use cautiously with real managers

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Even if enterprise 2.0 has its source in web 2.0, everybody now recognize that what we can see and use on the web needs to be tidied up to enter the workplace. One of the stumbling blocks can be found in language : sometimes even if two people agree on the content, the form can make them not understand each other. That’s why, sometimes, the enterprise 2.0 subject was not taken seriously by the (serious) people who needed to be convinced.

In fact it was one of the conclusions of the discussions that followed the last enterprise 2.0 conference in Boston : the enterprise 2.0 world had to learn the enterprise language and not the reverse. The confirmation was given in this post by someone from Booz Allen Hamilton (which internal 2.0 platform is a true success) : “In the end I’m not concerned with what we call it. I’ve got work to do.”

Anyway, here are some magic words our web experience makes us use (even unconsciously) too often in enterprise oriented discussions and that make our interlocutor look at us with doubtful and surprised eyes (really…you never had this feeling ?). Either because the words that are used are not relevant in a business context or because they make him uncomfortable.

Communities : I won’t say much about that since the issue has been discussed a lot, on this blog or elsewhere. Even if communities have been a hot topic for years, the only thing companies know about communities is that they often fail to manage them, even to find them. More, the word is connoted and repels managers who are looking for operational efficiency and nothing more. Last, the community-mania make businesses see communities everywhere andapply community management logics to groups which nature and purposes had nothing to do with that, what caused lots of failures. In short, by wanting every group to be manageable as a community, the concept was hackneyed and there’s a real risk to see businesses avoid it in the future.

Uses : I’ll be short on that since it seems to be it’s essentially a french issue. One of the most common words we use to mention the new behaviors driven by the new tools is “uses”, used in a way that’s close to “customs” (there’s no perfect translation here). It’s obvious that the business world, made of practices and workflows can’t understand what uses or customs have to do in the workplace. Another point, that is common to all languages, is that when we talk about discovering the uses of a given tool, managers only understand that we’re trying to find how to make their staff use tool they didn’t asked for (and that we don’t know what it can be used for).

Conversations / discussions : try to tell a manager, who’s been fighting againtst  chattings that are synonymous with wasted time and bad productivity for years, that his staff now need to have conversations, and, even worse, that his role is to stimulate these conversations….and look at the manager’s face. Businesses tolerate exchanges (ideally when formalized) but discussions are not a word related to efficiency or productivity. Here again it’s only a matter of words but we all know the impact of using the wrong words on the way people will perceive and understand what we say.

Animation : used a lot in french, and fortunately not in english, but the idea is the same. Many managers are very uncomfortable when they are told they have to do what looks rather like a communication or marketing job while their concern is only to manage their staff. They don’t see what their team and a community, in the web 2.0 meaning, have in common and they actually can’t imagine doing with their staff the job community managers are doing on the web. And they are often right.

Social : At first sight I thought this was a french issue. Say “social” to any french manager and he will think “unions, strikes, demonstrations…and things like that”. Anyway I’m sure that 95% people, wherever they are from, can’t associate the word “social” with things related to synergies or collaboration, even if they don’t have the french background. Even Andrew McAfee, at the last enterprise 2.0 conference in San Francisco, warned evangelists against the overuse of “social” since it does not make much sense for people running a business.

2.0 : entreprise 2.0, marketing 2.0, thing 2.0…. everything comes from web 2.0 and the new dynamics it’s bringing in the business sphere. But, seriously, how many “common people” know that web 2.0 exists ? Can tell what it’s about ? Take a “common” manager, who does not have any contextual element and is focused on very practical things and tell him things about anything 2.0 and how it will transform the business. I don’t even mention the possible fad connotation or the fact it can be understood as a violent break. In the best case they won’t consider it as a fad, in the worse a threat.

Contents : all the value is in the contents users will publish. You have to publish contents to lead a community. Here again we all understand what it means. But the “common” manager may find that it sounds  too “marketing”. Facing information overload in his work, managers won’t waste their  time to elaborate and publish “contents”. What they need to do their job is data, information…”contents” are what you use to fill an empty space and makes it look pretty. Surely interesting but not operational at all. “Sorry sir, managing a team to deliver results needs organization and management. And marketing is not a form of management. You’d better talk with my marketing director”. Not that wrong. Each can be relevant but not in the same context.

One may say I’m turning my nose up, that I’m using trickery. As a matter of fact, the meaning is the same even if the words are not quite relevant in a business context. But we are all used to have discussions between “people who understand”, with a strong web culture, and we often don’t realize that the word we use have other meanings for common people. In the end the message they understand is far from what we wanted them to understand. Coming from the web and the communication business, some words have to be translated into operations language, as well as the way we use tools.

PS :I dedicate this post to the friend who told me, a few months ago, “what makes me uncomfortable with all these things is that I feel I will have to turn myself into a communication agency while my job is to make sure my team deliver projects in the assigned time limit” and who put all these words in a single sentence to make me understand how strange it sounds to common people.

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