Web 2.0

Michele Martin on “Organizational Barriers to Using Web 2.0 Tools”

Echoing a conversation that was in the office this morning in which Jerry Watkins, Angelina Russo, Lynda Kelly and I were having – Michele Martin writes on Organizational Barriers to Using Web 2.0 Tools (via Beth Kanter)

Are these democratising tools of social media “evolutionary” or “disruptive”? It depends on who you are talking to.

This reminded me of an e-mail conversation I’ve been having with a nonprofit user in Australia. She pointed out to me that while she sees that social media tools make it easier for non-technical types to integrate technology into their workflow, at the same time there’s an ongoing organizational message that says “Leave the technology stuff to the IT department.”

I’m seeing a real tension developing between where various new tools are taking us and how organizations are responding. Most organizational cultures haven’t caught up to technology and institutional barriers are getting in the way of even experimenting with new technologies.

14 replies on “Michele Martin on “Organizational Barriers to Using Web 2.0 Tools””


Enjoying your blog! Can you share a bit more about the debate in your office and what you are thinking about or facing in terms of adoption of these tools? I’m really interested in this topic.

Beth Kanter

Hi Beth

The discussion in the office was in the context of a workshop we are delivering at Museums & The Web in San Fran in April as well as at a museum in New York a week or so later – called Planning for social media in Museums.

Before I started managing the web unit here at the Powerhouse I was systems administrator in the IT Department. As a result, Michele Martin’s post struck a chord . . .

In developing the workshop we’ve been to-ing and fro-ing in how we describe the effects of social media/2.0 on organisations. If we describe them as ‘disruptive’ then do we risk that managements will avoid them without properly consideration? (Especially given that management theory has become dominated by concepts of ‘risk management’ in the last 15 years). But if we describe them as ‘evolutionary’ are we avoiding dealing with the need to ‘sell’ these technologies to the aforementioned managements?

In reality, social media/2.0 is both disruptive and evolutionary. It is particularly disruptive in the traditional culture industries – obviously we’ve seen this in publishing, music, film, and news media. Museums are as old and in some cases older than these industries and generally tied to very traditional models of authority, authorship, knowledge, value.

My feeling is that many of the people attending our workshops will be looking for models and frameworks to help them sell experimental projects to their senior staff.

Hi Seb–You may want to avoid describing them in either way! I think that the concerns you raise in calling them either disruptive or evolutionary are both valid and you may run into trouble with both. If you’re going to use one or the other, I personally tend toward “evolutionary,” as to me, the tools are moving us back toward the original promise of the Web, which was publishing for everyone.

At any rate, if you’re looking to introduce these tools and try experiments, a couple of thoughts/resources:

Beth (who commented above) has re-mixed a great “wikitation”–a wiki-based presentation that she blogs about here:

Another potential resource–In addition to my blog, I also maintain a wiki–Web 2.0 Best Practices for Nonprofits, which is meant to discuss the various tools and how they can be used to accomplish a variety of nonprofit activities. Where possible, I’m also adding examples. You can access it here:

David Wilcox in the UK has also created a wiki on social media in nonprofits (he and I are starting to work more closely together on our two sites) that you can access here:

David and I are actually planning to sponsor a “Wiki Carnival” the week of March 5 to gather more resources for our two wikis. We’re also interested in what resources and information nonprofits need to implement these tools, so if you have any questions, ideas, etc., please shoot them our way. At his wiki, David also has training materials and a game that he and Beth recently used to discuss Web 2.0 tools–these might be useful.

Finally, several US libraries developed an online introduction to Web 2.0 that’s a series of “micro-lessons” that allow users to experiment with the various tools of Web 2.0. You can access their materials here:

Be sure to take a look at their program notes, which describe how they implemented the course. You can also access participant blogs to see what the learners thought of the experience.

Just a few thoughts/resources that will hopefully get you started. I’d love to learn more about the feedback you’re getting from folks and the potential barriers that you see in this process.

This is very interesting and useful. It reminds me of some work done in the management area in a company called EDS (I think) where major change was brought in via the middle management level by a group of self-organised future thinkers who tried things out which were then subsequently implemented by management at the executive level (also similar to the old 3M innovations model i guess).

My view (that I expressed at the meeting Seb refers to) is that it takes a small group of innovative people to experiment, then others will take it up when they see the benefits. I don’t know that ‘forcing’ them is going to work (but might be worth trying in some instances, for example I’m chairing an exhibition project team and have set them what I’ve called a ‘professional development’ task of both reading and posting to a blog by 30 June!).

When our new website is more formed I’m planning to try and phase out my use of email as far as possible and do all my correspondence via a blog. It’s worth a go as I get numereous queries from colleagues around the world, and to me a blog is the best way to both receive requests / responses and build / engage with an ongoing community of practice. I feel it’s my responsibility to bring others with me. I started with my future trends blog (which was discussed elsewhere on this blog somewhere…) with mixed results.

I recently wrote a small piece from the viewpoint of a member the general public about my impression of how museums and institutions are dealing with Web2.0 technologies and why they need to allow people to participate. In the piece used this blog to illustrate how my feelings about the Powerhouse as an institution shifted after reading this blog. The Url if you are interested is

Hi guys
This is really interesting feedback. Thanks for your input Beth. I’ll have a look at the resources and see where they match up with the aims of the program.
I think one of the issues I’m trying to clarify for myself has to do with how to situate the use and viability of social media in museums. If we talk about in terms on communication and learning there are great benefits that we can qualify using existing evaluation tools. If, as our discussion suggested, we’re trying to quantify the value of social media in museums then we run into a few more hurdles – none that can’t be passed but hurdles regardless. I agree with Beth; steer clear of either evolutionary or disruptive and I’m still trying to find a way of describing social media. More reading to be done!


I think this piece from Nitin Karandikar on the impact of risk and business models is useful.

Why does this happen? Why do the IT Departments of large software companies inevitably fight new technologies, while small, aggressive startups (and forward-looking individuals) jump in with both feet?

The answer lies in the differing risk profile and focus for these two groups:

1. The risk profiles are exactly opposite: the big enterprise, in the form of their IT Department, sees large risk and little to gain by embracing new, “unproven” technology and often doesn’t encourage innovation; the small, aggressive startup sees exactly the opposite – a possible competitive advantage, and little to lose. For a startup, the real risk is in NOT being disruptive!


2. The focus is different as well. Small organizations value efficiency, effectiveness and convenience – indeed it’s their life-blood; in a large enterprise, employees get paid anyway even if their processes are inconvenient or inefficient.

Hi all and thanks again for this really important discussion and the links. I (with various others) will be facilitating a major strategic think-tank with our Executive ( selected others, ie web and IT) late April. The aim is to look at the big wide world of Web 2.0 and what it means for us to move ahead as an institution. While the use and knowledge of social media tools i think is fairly low in our place, there is also a recognition that there is a big changing world out there, we have great content to share so how best to do this? (ie the will’s there but not the “way”, in terms of management resourcing, systems and processes, etc, at this stage). This is why these discussions have been incredibly useful to me.

I was very interested in the game that Beth and David did – the cards especially are really good at explaining plus questioning. This seems like a great way to workshop the issues together. Was there any other feedback from your workshop that would help? I’d also be interested in blogging on our progress as we go which could be a useful learning/feedback tool in itself.

I’m also wondering what i could get them to do for “homework” before the workshop. One of our people here does a great presentation on Web 2.0 already, which will form an important component but are there any other key places/sites we should direct people to? I was thinking about the Web 2.0 presentation that Seb posted awhile ago, plus some of the links from Michelle’s post above (Beth’s “wikitation” in particular).

Any other sites, tools etc (apart from this blog of course!) where I could point time-poor managers to review before our session would be welcome! The session is not until late April but I wanted to start thinking about it early.

Some early stats of Web2.0 adoption amongst large corporates from Forresters and McKinsey are reported by Nick Carr.

Yesterday, Forrester released some results from a December 2006 survey of 119 CIOs at mid-size and larger companies. It indicated that Web 2.0 is being broadly and rapidly brought into enterprises. Fully 89% of the CIOs said they had adopted at least one of six prominent Web 2.0 tools – blogs, wikis, podcasts, RSS, social networking, and content tagging – and a remarkable 35% said they were already using all six of the tools. Although Forrester didn’t break out adoption rates by tool, it did say that CIOs saw relatively high business value in RSS, wikis, and tagging and relatively low value in social networking and blogging.

Tomorrow, McKinsey will release the results of a broader survey of Web 2.0 adoption, and the results are quite different. In January 2007, McKinsey surveyed some 2,800 executives – not just CIOs – from around the world. It found strong interest in many Web 2.0 technologies but much less widespread adoption. McKinsey also looked at six tools. While it didn’t include tagging, it did include mashups; the other five were the same. It found that social networking was actually the most popular tool, with 19% of companies having invested in it, followed by podcasts (17%), blogs (16%), RSS (14%), wikis (13%), and mashups (4%). When you add in companies planning to invest in the tools, the percentages are as follows: social networking (37%), RSS (35%), podcasts (35%), wikis (33%), blogs (32%), and mashups (21%).

The geographical differences of the McKinsey report sound especially interesting.

Further to my post above (Mar 15th) I’m still after any sites/readings people could recommend to help planning our future Executive session please? I have started to list several useful sites here – – but was wondering if there’s any others (apart from what’s already on this blog)?

Here are a few more that might help:
A “paper” activity to introduce the concept of blogs
Beth Kanter’s Screencast on Using Widgets to Build Community
Discusses the different types of blogs a museum might use
Discusses a hierarchy of social participation in museums that might be helpful in thinking about technology use.

Thanks a heap Michelle – these are really useful and I have added them to my links I’m really taken by the hierachy discussion. Just having submitted my thesis on museum learning (yay!!) which developed a model of museum participation under a 6P framework, I’m quite taken with the way Nina has categorised how museums could make this work at a level that they choose, without necessarily jumping on a bandwagon.

I need to digest it more, but certainly food for thought and much appreciated.

For a great visual overview, I love the video on YouTube
The Machine is US/ing Us

Tells web.2.0 in less than five minutes!

Maybe set up few links/examples to look at how museums are using Web2.0 with some discussion/reflections and have them look at them a head of time? I’m thinking about that wonderful example in flickr I came across recently – the John Collier exhibit

Also, Allison Fine’s book – Momentum -has some key big picture/strategy concepts that worth thinking about. Good luck!

Thanks Beth. We had come across The Machine is US/ing Us. I think it’s quite outstanding. I’ve also put the link to your post about Flickr on my delicious. Using Flickr as one/an additional way to host online exhibitons is intriguing.

We’ve scheduled our strategic discussion/workshop for late June so I’ll keep you all posted! I do think that having 1 good example of each kind of Web 2.0 application in a museum setting is the way to go.

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