Web 2.0 & summer: 1 day off, 2 ships, 3 thirds

Thursday, May 22nd, 2008

Memorial Day weekend, like July 4th, means more to me each year as my sons near enrollment in our adult world.

After 5 weeks of Web 2.0 presentations with clients from 3 continents, the nature of these discussions are in a third chapter: ‘We’ve tried a few related projects and want to pick up the pace (aka make investments) where it makes sense.’ Seventeen months ago, chapter 1, clients wanted to know ‘if this Web 2.0 is for real.’ During News Corp’s acquisition of Dow Jones in mid-07, creating a sibling for MySpace, chapter 2 centered on ‘how should we get started?’

As you might expect, enterprise executives are more interested in Web 2.0 as it might enable collaboration to capture the organization’s knowledge and to inspire innovation amongst employees, customers and partners than they are in the tools of Web 2.0 – blogs, podcasts etc, although low-end, low-cost video is compelling.  The thinking is something like, ‘If Wikipedia gets it done with 8 full-time employees, why can’t we do a little better with a lot larger staff?!’

As we talk about the next generation of Internet-savvy employees and customers, I emphasize that regardless which Web 2.0 tools or principles take hold, there will remain the need for two ships: leadership and scholarship.  My eighteen-year-old once suggested to me, “Don’t just yell at me, show me!” which I interpret to be a useful model for both Web 2.0 marketing and management.

My favorite leadership story in tribute to those we honor on Monday:  20+ years ago at a start-up software company, we interviewed a just-graduated engineer from NC State for a technical sales position. He offered capability and charm, but no measurable, related experience – a recipe for rejection. At lunch, one manager noted that the candidate had been fraternity president and asked what management lesson from that experience might be applied to developing our software business?

He replied in an even tone that in such an unorganized, chaotic environment where he had no real authority, he observed that “the mission of the top 1/3 was to keep the middle 1/3 from being like the bottom 1/3.”  Ten seconds of silence ensued; then our General Manager asked him how soon he could start.

Welcome to summer! There’s lots to look forward to.