originally posted November 3.


(This is a reposting of a blog I wrote for the 2.0 Adoption Council.)




After today's 2.0 Council discussion with Don Tapscott, whose new book, Macrowikinomics: Rebooting Business and the World gives real life examples of how 2.0 thinking can have a significant effect on how people and organizations get things done, I made some brief comments on another aspect of succeeding with Enterprise 2.0 efforts: taking into account the emotional impact of change on people. I was asked to expand on this, so here goes.


Max Planck famously remarked that "Science advances one funeral at a time." He was pointing out that even in a field as pragmatic and evidence based as Physics - where your theory is either consistent with experimental evidence or it isn't - people get emotionally attached to ideas that are ineffective or just plain contradicted by the facts. (In fact, Einstein's Nobel prize in 1921 was actually for his explanation in 1905 of the photoelectric effect, not for his more epoch making theory of special relativity, also discovered in 1905, but still too controversial in 1921 even though it had been repeatedly verified. On the other hand, the  photoelectric effect is what makes my automatic garage door work on a rainy day, so maybe the Nobel committee was on to something...)


We've all seen the same thing when trying to get people to use Enterprise 2.0 techniques. It's a culture change - in fact a culture shock - for many people. (Strangely enough - though perhaps I just have unrealistic expectations - I often find some of my fellow IT people to be the ones who have terribly difficult issues with this kind of change.)


One tool I found that helps in understanding and dealing with this emotional issue is Elisabeth Kübler-Ross's Five Stages of Grief model which describe the five stages that she had found people going through when faced with a life changing event, such as being diagnosed with an incurable disease.


Now, clearly, I'm not trying to equate the deep emotional shock that people face in such situations with what happens when you ask an executive to blog! My point is that, to a lesser degree - but one that's important for our efforts - people often go through similar stages when faced with changes in how they interact with other people and perform their jobs.


Let's talk about the stages. (By the way, Kubler-Ross wasn't pedantic about everyone going through the stages in a fixed order, or even going through all the stages.)



The  Denial stage occurs when people have first encountered a signficant event. They might respond by ignoring it - as if it hasn't happened at all. They might just get confused and avoid the situation. ("I don't have any problems with connecting with people. I have lots of friends at work!")


We've all seen this - "Why are you making me learn this new stuff? Why can't I just send an email?" People get frustrated and angry.


In this stage, the weight of the unaccepted changes make it hard just to get through the day. You've seen it - the people who are sitting at their desks, doing activities that resemble work, but their hearts just aren't in it.


Now our user has started seeing the change as unavoidable, but perhaps negotiable. ("I'll write a blog, but turn off the ability of the readers to comment. OK?")


Finally, we reach the stage of accepting the situation as the new reality. We can start to try new things.


I've seen some version of this every time I've been involved with shepherding some new way of doing business through the organization.


How do we make use of this concept? I'd suggest several thoughts:


  1. Accept that it's going to happen.

    No matter how wonderful a job you've done of planning, communicating, and training, some of your users will have this reaction.

  2. Don't try to change people's minds overnight

    Sorry - just not going to happen. People need time to adjust.

  3. Give people a forum for venting

    Sometimes, people going through these culture shocks just need to talk about it. You don't want people poisoning the well, but a well planned opportunity to vent, whether formal or informal, can help.

  4. Create a support group

    You may not be able to help the people having issues with Enterprise 2.0, but other people might. How about creating a community where people can start discussions on what they're having trouble with and where they can get help and encouragement from peers, not evangelists.


Just some quick thoughts. Let me know what you think.




Roy is the Senior Director of Technology Planning at Covidien. He is helping to lead his company's efforts to drive innovation and collaboration and had been involved with all phases of the selection, piloting, and implementation of Covidien's Jive SBS based environment. In addition to his Enterprise 2.0 related efforts, he is also working on a number of strategic business enablement projects.


Roy is a proud member of the 2.0 Adoption Council, from whose wonderful members he begs, borrows, and steals every good idea he can find.


You can connect with Roy via email or via Twitter at @RWilsker