Clay Shirky: How the Enterprise Moves to 2.0

There's much to consider as we move toward tools that allow us to share information more freely internally and externally in the business world. Shirky makes some good points about how these new Web 2.0 socila tools are valuable for all types of businesses: manufacturing, consumer products, construction-- as well as technology companies:

"The consultant, author and professor says businesses are just beginning to understand the value—and challenges—of social technologies.

Clay Shirky’s new book, Here Comes Everybody: The Power of Organizing without Organizations (Allen Lane, February 28, 2008), looks at the Internet’s impact on the way people work together. “When we change the way we communicate, we change society,” he writes. Web 2.0 tools have “altered the old limits on the size, sophistication and scope of unsupervised effort” required to communicate effectively between and among groups, with big implications for institutions and the people who manage them."

One nice takeaway:

CIOInsight: This all sounds great for certain kinds of workers and certain kinds of companies, but what if I’m an old-school manufacturer trying to compete with low-cost offshore production? What’s in it for me?

Shirky: Think of the famous story about Cemex, the Mexican cement company. It turns out that dealing with cement is an IT problem. When you send the truck out with wet cement, it had better dump that cement on schedule or you’ve just bought yourself a big rock with an engine. The competitive advantage is about managing where the trucks go and when they go.

Over and over again, this turns out to be the case with robust and long-lived manufacturing processes. Managing information about downstream demand and upstream supply, which plants are online and offline, how do we continue to retool without disrupting supply–those kinds of questions are the competitive ones, and the people who know best are your employees. But they can’t all get in a big room every day and talk to each other. A big part of the answer is, what if you took the 10 people who know the most about 10 different bits of that problem, and you put them together, with a mailing list or a wiki, nothing fancy, all of this stuff can be set up and tried basically for free. What would happen if those people started talking to each other?"

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