E2 day 2 had some very thought provoking discussions and some repetition of common themes. After one particular discussion lead by Alan Lepofsky, (@alanlepo) Vice President and Principal Analyst, Constellation Research, I found myself paraphrasing what William Gibson once said: “the future is already here — it’s just not evenly distributed.”

In the discussion, “Taking the Training Wheels Off of Social Software and Getting Down To Business” Alan looked forward and predicted what he saw to be the future social business trends, at the time I tweeted what he said and as it was later retweeted by Alan himself, I conclude that I must have been accurate in my reporting of what he predicted, that “in 3 to 6 months it will be standard fare for us to assign each other the things we need to work on,” this was a comment within a discussion on task assignment in which people are using social tools to actually get work done, rather than “just” being engaged on social activities such as “sharing.”
So why was I left thinking that the future is already here? (and that Interact was ahead of the game?) Well in a time zone 5 hrs ahead of Boston, Interact had just announced that Activity Management was part of its upcoming 5.1 release. This clearly demonstrates Alan’s predicted shift from sharing to “Getting Work Done.” (Twitter #GWD)

At about the same time that Interact was sharing its insight into the future, over here in Boston the day had started off with a discussion by Andrew McAfee (@amcafee) – Principal Research Scientist at MIT who gave a very engaging and provocative speech on “E2 in the Era of Big Data.” His opening statement was that “The world is one big data problem,” and one in which computers and their associated algorithms are best set to resolve as, “computers are getting smarter all the time” and they have often out performed man in predictive tasks as “humans were never really that good anyway.” Far from being a depressive opening McAfee said that the solutions for us was to “race with the machines” and adopt new roles. He also pointed to some MIT research that enabled him to finish on a positive note for us, “Your chances of professional survival increase as your use of social goes up.”

Many later discussions highlighted what social business was and how it can be used to leverage business benefits. In the conference track “Organisation & Operational Readiness” lead by Sara Roberts (@RobertsGolden) President & CEO, Roberts Golden Consulting there was a clear message that it wasn’t about the tools it was more about the behaviour of the users and what they were doing with the tools at their disposal. Dan Pontefract (@dpontefract ) Head of Learning & Collaboration, Telus, said that effective use of social tools could enable a measurement of return on performance, he also shared the 5 C’s that were key to Engagement:

  • Connect
  • Consider
  • Communicate
  • Create
  • Confirm

Another popular topic in the rooms and on Twitter (personally with @RobynMiller and @elsua) was on gamification and in particular on the awarding of Badges to reward certain achievements or actions. I’m not sure how much of a motivation getting a ‘Badge’ can be, certainly in the long term, I can certainly see its benefit as a “start-up” activity to kick start engagement, but I am yet to be convinced on the longevity or business benefits of badge collecting, to me it takes me back to my days of being a cub scout. But, I’m willing to listen to counter arguments so please send me your thoughts, although please accept that I wont be awarding badges for your efforts.

Although I may be sceptical of Badges I am not being dismissive of the concept of gamification, done well it can be beneficial and have clear business benefits. Interact’s own Signpost Widget is an example of gamification in which you achieve a higher score for engaging in beneficial activity such as profile completion, document sharing and other activity by the individual that is beneficial to the community.

Going back to the start, or indeed back to the future I will conclude on a similar sci-fi theme to the one on which I began – as part of a keynote presentation Wim De Gier (@skywim) Senior Global Project Manager Corporate Strategy & Development, LeasePlan Corporation spoke of contribution to the ‘Corporate Brain’ within the LeasePlan intranet; LinkedPeople. Wim’s assertion was that if you use (work on or contribute to the LeasePlan intranet) then your actions were contributing to and so growing the “Corporate Brain” he said that the main benefit of all this activity was that LinkedPeople allowed users “to find the gold and dig in the right place.”

I think that talking of the brain is a good conclusion as today at E2 was very thought provoking, but pleasingly it was also frequently scattered with specific examples of how people had done things and what they had done within the sphere of social business.

Follow me on Twitter at steven_osborne