From his base at the Center for Digital Business at MIT, Andrew McAfee‘s job these days is, he says, to “try to understand all the different things that technology is doing to the business world, all the different ways that it’s changing innovation and productivity and process execution, and then, at a higher level, try to understand how it’s affecting the work force and how it’s affecting competition.”
McAfee wrote the seminal piece “Enterprise 2.0: The Dawn of Emergent Collaboration” for MIT Sloan Management Review in 2006, and went on to expand on those ideas in our magazine and in the book Enterprise 2.0 (Harvard Business Publishing, 2009).
In a new Q&A with David Kiron, executive editor of Innovation Hubs at MIT SMR, McAfee looks back at the past six years and what he’s learned about the triggers that generate CEO interest in social networking, what he misread and why the idea of controlling information flows is becoming obsolete.
In 2006, you coined the term “Enterprise 2.0.” How did you come up with it?
I started to get interested in the phenomenon when I started to hear this phrase “Web 2.0” getting thrown around. For me, this was in 2004-2005. I thought it was just silly hype from the Web community at first, because it’s a really strong claim: There is a new version of the Web out there, 2.0.
But then I started to go look at the things that the Web 2.0 advocates were talking about. I started to use Wikipedia for the first time, and I saw that thanks to blogging platforms, we didn’t need to be tech geeks or have any money to put our opinions up there on this worldwide library and printing press that was the Web. This really was different from the first generation of the Web.
I wanted to think about what these tools and the communities and processes and philosophies that came along with these tools meant for good old-fashioned companies trying to get their widgets out the door every day. So I used the phrase “Enterprise 2.0” as the shorthand for what the Web 2.0 tools and that world meant for enterprises.
In retrospect, I should have anticipated that we’d be hanging the “2.0” suffix off everything, but I didn’t. We hadn’t yet been bombarded with “Everything 2.0