Web 2.0 encourages many companies to change their structure and to make their way to Enterprise 2.0. Then, the corporate culture is also put to the test.
Suppose you follow the current discussion of how companies can use Web 2.0 technology for themselves. In that case, you will notice that it parallels the knowledge management discussion at the turn of the millennium. Little has changed in most companies since then. Their culture has not changed, and the challenge of organizing knowledge has not been solved.
And now comes Web 2.0, and the companies should develop into Enterprise 2.0. Understandably, some managers approach this topic with reservations. Nevertheless, there is no way for companies to deal with the questions:
- To what extent does Web 2.0 technology change our environment?
- To what extent can we want to, or do we even have to use them for our success?
Today, 98% of 15 to 29-year-olds use the social web as a source of contact and information – among other things, because they are fascinated by these hands-on technologies, the uncontrolled and domination-free exchange of information. These young men and women are not just the customers of tomorrow’s companies; they are also their future employees – unless they are already on their payrolls.
When it comes to social media, two worldviews meet:
- A mechanistic, deterministic worldview represented by most companies and
- A liberal, selfish worldview, represented by the (mostly) younger employees and customers
The meeting of these two mental images has created a sustained dynamic of change in many companies.
Change Management is Becoming the Standard
Classic, hierarchical organizational concepts are increasingly losing their integrating and controlling effects in companies because they were the answer to a society organized according to the division of labor. Today, in their rigidity, they represent the counter-concept to social reality and convey to many employees a feeling of senselessness that arises from a discrepancy between individual expectations and structural conditions.
It creates pressure for change in companies, which is no longer about reorganizing routines but instead initiating openness and flexibility. Change becomes the organizational standard because economic survival in modern times depends crucially on the potential for renewal.
However, employees only become innovative if they identify with the company. It presupposes that their resources are perceived and used appropriately. Usually, the structures in the companies do not follow the employees’ possibilities. Instead, the employees adapt to the existing inflexible systems. Working under these conditions makes sense for fewer and fewer employees. However, work perceived as meaningless does not create identification or motivation and is, therefore, neither innovative nor productive in the long run. It follows that a modern company organization must have variable structures. The adaptive effort must shift from the employees to the systems – and that is what happens when companies develop into Enterprise 2.0.
On the Way to Hypertext Organization
Open organizational structures are subject to the risk of only minimally integrating the organization’s members into the overall system. For this reason, when developing into a Web 2.0 company, the shared value base, i.e., corporate culture, has a central structuring function.
Study results show that open learning systems are unsuitable for all types of work. For routine work, hierarchical structures with defined disciplinary and professional leadership are the better choice. Hierarchical structures hinder only the project work, that is, work outside of familiar lines. Therefore, the central question in many companies is: How can we link hierarchical structures in our organization to perform routine work and open, network-like structures to perform tasks that require a high degree of creativity, flexibility, and cooperation? One concept for this is hypertext organization.
A hypertext organization sees itself as a network-like structure of logical connections. Different perspectives, points of view, and thus also links to a specific topic can be queried. Analogous to the design of the Internet, a hypertext organization is a collection of highly complex, linked hypertexts, which, in their structure, provide linked or linked knowledge with any increase in complexity, with as little redundancy as possible.
For this purpose, the hypertext organization combines three levels:
- There is still the classic business system level with clear hierarchical structures for routine activities.
- In addition, there is an “open” project level, highly innovative, with minor hierarchical assignments but clear technical goals.
- A personal exchange occurs between the levels, depending on the project, administration, and routine work involved. The everyday basis is the shared knowledge made available via modern means of communication, such as an internet or intranet-supported database system.
Since all levels are logically interlinked, ideally, a dynamic knowledge cycle arises, which, on the one hand, guarantees the cohesion between free, innovative project work and routine administrative work and, on the other hand, prevents information deficits.
- Depending on requirements, order situation, and environmental conditions, resources can either be developed by the business system level as a routine along with standardized procedures or new, innovative ways of resource procurement are evaluated on the project level.
- Employees can contribute their know-how and information base, increasing and expanding through social media engagement.
- Social media engagement of employees can be made connectable to existing routine processes.
- With this organizational form, the company develops its culture and opens itself to operational social developments.
Such an organizational form, therefore, includes both clear, hierarchical structures and a permanently “open” structure with loosely connected, process-oriented work or project groups that open new, innovative potential. If these new products or processes prove their worth, they will integrate as standardized processes in the more hierarchically organized business process.