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.

4 Replies to “Fish & Chips and Malt Vinegar (inseparable organizational pieces)”

  1. I am continually amazed at how adept we are as a species of making the same mistakes over and over again. I know that managers and C-level people are reading any myriad of books, HBR articles, blogs and other information sources that are all informing them, in all-too-plain and similar language, to fail forward. Leaders and captains of industry read the same quotes by Einstein about how the same thinking that created problems will not solve them.

    Yet we keep looking for the “silver bullet.” There is no silver bullet. Just like there is no werewolf.

    The organizational evolution that is required does not come from the top. It comes from the bottom with a co-conspirator at the top of the organization, and like the pieces of bread on your fish and chips that you buy after a night at the pub so you can walk and eat at the same time, you sandwich everything in the middle of the organization with the change, thus flattening the organization into one delicious mush.

    The only complexity to it, in my opinion, is why the pain of “staying the course” is so alluring.

  2. Dan, I had something pithy to say, but am distracted by the thought of fish ‘n’ chips!

    This might have been it…to extend your metaphor: the newspaper that wraps up all the tasty unhealthyness should be the actual work? I think the thing that grounds the tech/behaviour/learning combo is the work itself. People don’t change because of technology or OD programs. But, if these ent 2.0 things are embedded in their work, then we see change.

    What do you think? Did I misunderstand your message here? As I mentioned, I’m distracted by the thought of fish ‘n’ chips.

  3. @Aaron – I presume you saw this interesting take? … staying the course the relatively safe bet of course

    @Holly – sure, you can use that extended analogy … I think there is a combination effort at bay though, in that yes change happens when it’s embedded into work processes but of course work processes can’t change unless leaders put the three pillars in place from the beginning

  4. Dan,

    I feel that some are afraid to embrace the 2.0 devices, mainly baby boomers and some skeptical GenX’s. This may be because they see the 2.0 devices as a ‘life cycle’ as opposed to ‘organizational evolution’. By this I mean that they see the 2.0 devices as having an end to their popularity and use, thus reverting back to the original business basics – business as usual.

    It’s a hard sell to convince people that 2.0 is here to stay and that everyone will be able to collaborate, communicate, and function better by using the 2.0 tools.

    I do agree with you that all new models must incorporate the composite of Enterprise 2.0, Formal Learning, Informal Learning and Social Learning to help keep the organization on its continuous evolution cycle. Pure behavior models will not work in today’s business environment – enterprise 2.0 and cognition need to be included.

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