November 14, 2010
social learning

Fish & Chips and Malt Vinegar (inseparable organizational pieces)

Truth be told, I love fish and chips.

Maybe it’s the English in me, but I can’t get enough of it, despite its rather unhealthy background and 150 year history. In fact, the industry is worth today an estimated £1.2bn in the UK as reported in The Independent earlier in 2010.

I liken Enterprise 2.0 to the fish, Organizational Evolution to the chips and for me, malt vinegar playing the part of formal, informal and social learning.

People … to have fish and chips, you need the fish, you need the chips and you need malt vinegar. If you have one without the other, then (insert high levels of personal looks of aghast) this is no longer fish and chips, is it.

And if it’s no longer fish and chips, what we have are separate, incoherent pieces found lying crestfallen on the floor.

The Fall issue of the Enterprise 2.0 Conference wrapped up this past week. All sorts of interesting post-summit dialogue is now taking place online from the likes of Gordon Ross, Dennis Howlett, Andrew McAfee, Megan Murray, Martijn Linssen, and Mark Fidelman to name a few. Some were there, some weren’t, but it seems as though we’ve now got problems with our fish and chips order right across the purvey of once mutually agreeable chefs.

We even have some vendors bashing other vendors.

When technology companies begin talking collaboration, social ‘whatever’ or Enterprise 2.0 … I can’t help but think they’re missing the chips and malt vinegar of the order. C’mon chefs, organizations are changing from a behavioral perspective (as society evolves too) and thus we need those tools and technologies to help drive the new organizational behaviors right across the org. It cannot be simply the technology; we need the organizational evolution and new behavior model in the mix. (aided and abetted by formal, informal and social learning constructs – malt vinegar)

When HR, organizational development and/or management-leadership consultants start selling the necessary behavior changes that an organization ‘must’ make to keep up with attraction, retention, engagement, salary, connection issues … they can’t do so unless they come equipped with the mental and physical capabilities to mesh those chips with the fish. That is, organizational behaviorists cannot sell me simply a new leadership model just because that’s the cool thing to do; it (the chips) has to come hand-in-hand with the fish, and thus collaboration/social/Enterprise 2.0 technologies need to be wedded to the mix of any new/updated leadership model – the organizational evolution as it were. (aided and abetted by formal, informal and social learning constructs – malt vinegar)

And lastly, I personally do not believe a learning organization can simply turn on the ‘formal, informal and social learning’ switch and believe any organization is going to ‘get it’ right away. To me, fish and chips is a tad bland without the malt vinegar … and I’m certainly not going to eat malt vinegar on its own. To address this, any ‘formal, informal and social learning’ strategy needs to be wedded to the fish and the chips; it needs to be coupled with collaboration/social/Enterprise 2.0 technologies as well as the organizational evolution concepts mentioned above.

I would hate to see the Enterprise 2.0 space turn into the ERP space. That, however, seems to be where we’re heading (again) as technology bells and whistles and the ‘need’ to have an ERP begin to outweigh the cultural implications for having said technologies. Meanwhile, the learning organization is left out in the dark, trying to play catch-up with models from yesteryear.

Can’t we just all get along?

For additional thoughts, see Jon Ingham’s definition of social business and Harold Jarche’s views on Organizational Complexities.

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