Enterprise 2.0 Files: Punk Rock at Pfizer

July 13, 2008
Enterprise 2.0 is not just about a new way of working -- it's also breathing a fresh, new sense of perspective into how large manufacturers look at themselves and seek to overcome their challenges. Along these lines, a recent recap article on this ...

Enterprise 2.0 is not just about a new way of working -- it's also breathing a fresh, new sense of perspective into how large manufacturers look at themselves and seek to overcome their challenges.

Along these lines, a recent recap article on this year's Enterprise 2.0 conference talked up what project lead Simon Revell called Pfizer's "punk rock" attitude towards pushing 2.0 technologies such as wikis and blogs into all areas of this pharma giant.

By all accounts, Simon gave a great talk, and what I took away from the presentation was his team's new look at some common-sense cultural considerations for enabling change management around old processes at a large, traditional, Fortune 50 firm.

For instance, at Pfizer Simon's team used a phased pilot model with small projects targeting limited groups of key users, and used some sleight-of-hand to pass these new tools off in old ways. "We didn't refer to the blogs as blogs," Revell said, because after talking to key management stakeholders, they discovered that the term connoted something un-businesslike and frivolous. (Having talked about these tools myself with numerous executives, lets just say that I would rename all these frivolous-sounding tools something nice and boring if given the chance.)

Revell also made his team stock the sites themselves, doing much of the early posting, commenting, and even allowing for anonymous postings at first to get the ball rolling. The first two tactics I wholeheartedly approve -- in the last 4-5 years that I've been watching these tools grow in and out of the corporate sphere, I still haven't seen a successful social network, a bustling blog, or a working wiki that didn't have a prolific champion (or, better yet, a team of such champions) putting the up front time in to stock it with compelling content. It's simple behavioral psychology -- people want to be a part of something social and exciting, and will stick around and come back (and will actually help govern and maintain the site) if you give them a social experience.

(Quick side note: This is also why you should recruit your marcomm team early, and get them heavily involved in these efforts, especially at first -- there is less resistance from professional communicators to the idea of publicly publishing their writing, and they're already more familiar with expressing the type of corporate voice in discourse that sets the right cultural tone. Another supply chain? Finding people at your firm who are already active within the social web, and giving them the necessary guidance on the new "enterprise 2.0" context before you set them loose.)

The third tactic that Simon's team used -- initially allowing for anonymous blog postings or comments -- is a definite risk, even for the initial site stocking's sake. After all, until the type of social moderation that shepherds successful communities spins up, you're relying on people's good judgment to shape the tone on your site, which -- as the hatespeech otherwise known as YouTube comments section aptly demonstrates -- is very hard to achieve with the veil of anonymity intact.

Despite any misgivings I might have about them employing this last tactic, Revell's team has undeniably made a great go of pushing the 2.0 envelope, and according to him they've got Pfizer executives happily blogging away, on the right topics, to the right communities. In fact, Revell reports that even the normally hyper-cautious regulatory affairs group got sold on the idea of the value of openness and emergent behavior, using the corporate wiki to generate ideas and collaborate on projects.

One last point: to promote their reinvigoration of Pfizer's collaboration culture both internally and externally, Revell and his team used the oldest change management trick in the book: a mascot. Pfizer created a fictional character named "Charlie" to display how 2.0 tech can enable enterprise business and built a presentation around it that is actually useful and informative -- and as a bonus, is not actually that goofy (well, relatively speaking -- this is, after all, the corporate intranet).

You can find it at Slideshare here.

For more background on how these types of tools are being used in leading manufacturers, here's a feature-length piece I wrote early last year on the subject that's still relevant (things aren't changing that fast...yet!)

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