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Learning to accept a little irrational behavior in our rational enterprise applications

Posted by Ken Klaus on March 4, 2008


I read this excerpt from Dan Ariely’s book Predictably Irrational that reminded me of our conversations around the impact of web 2.0 technologies on business in general and, more specifically, on enterprise applications. In the excerpt Mr. Ariely writes:

“[We] live in two worlds: one characterized by social exchanges and the other characterized by market exchanges. And we apply different norms to these two kinds of relationships. Moreover, introducing market norms into social exchanges, as we have seen, violates the social norms and hurts the relationships.”

Later in the excerpt he gives the following example:

“Asking your neighbor (who happens to be a lawyer) to bring in your mail while you’re on vacation is fine. But asking him to spend the same amount of time preparing a rental contract for you – free – is not.”

As we imagine how the world of web 2.0 (social networking, tagging, blogging, bookmarking, etc.) might be incorporated into the enterprise space, the key is to consider how mixing social applications with enterprise applications will impact our customers. Applications like MySpace, Facebook, LinkedIn and YouTube were designed to connect individuals who either already have a relationship or, as is more commonly the case, people who “have a friend in common”. The enterprise world, on the other hand, is primarily made up of individuals, both internal and external to the organization, whose primary connection is the commodity or service they provide to their customers. Meaning each of us has a job to do and the relationships we maintain at work help us to get that job done.

Happily, our social and ‘enterprise’ lives often get mixed in together which for me means some of my closest friends work here at Oracle. Unfortunately, most of us have also experienced the discomfort of a broken or dysfunctional relationship in the workplace. Not fun! Even so I’m willing to take the risk, because having sincere, meaningful relationships with the people I work with does more to motivate me than the size of my compensation package – just don’t tell that to the guy who signs my paycheck. =)

Which brings me to the point at last (thanks for sticking with me!). Our customers will see the benefits of having web 2.0 technologies embedded in their enterprise applications. Most already understand the importance of networking, real time collaboration, and a personalized user experience. But what is less clear is how they can mitigate the risk of mixing social and enterprise applications. Here’s where we, as an application vendor, can help. By providing secure, configurable applications and the tools required to monitor and manage their organization’s social networks, our customers will understand that we have thought about the potential hazards of mixing social interaction with enterprise solutions and that we have placed their business needs at the core of our application strategy rather than simply embracing the latest internet craze; and that our goal is not simply to build the best and coolest applications in the world but also to build software that makes our customer’s companies the best and coolest places in the world to work. This, in my opinion, is the hallmark of a truly great Talent Management solution.

One Response to “Learning to accept a little irrational behavior in our rational enterprise applications”

  1. […] to reading Predictably Irrational by Dan Ariely – a behavioral economics book that Mark and Ken have been recommending for awhile.  Dan’s book shows via extensive experimentation that a good […]

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