The necessity of naive optimism

HolisticI recently did a presentation of our 15-year intranet and website journey in Carlsberg to a number of our peers.

With 70+ websites and intranets managed across 30 markets on pretty much a shoe-string, we’re an interesting case on how much can be achieved with very little.

However, at the end I shared my vision of a holistic workplace, where intranets, mobile devices, and even the furniture and layout of our buildings themselves were parts of one holistic vision of how we see our employees work and live in the future, and noticed a change in the audience.

Most people, probably just ignoring the starry-eyed hullabaloo, seemed fine with my expanding perspective, but there was a distinct glazing over of eyes and a few reviews noted that my ending was a bit over-the-top and naively optimistic.

I agree, actually.

But I also firmly believe that this kind of starry-eyed thinking is necessary. It’s not just necessary because “reaching for the stars, will at least get you off the ground”, but because a holistic perspective, no matter how vague or ambitious, is needed for everything else to make sense to people. Building strategies for a single well-defined technology-area at a time will get you great technology, but will not move the enterprise.

An Intranet strategy cannot stand alone, but has to be anchored in an idea about how people come to work and use it as part of their personal life and the corporate culture. If not, it will just become an enforced startup page where people read the People News.

A mobile device or PC strategy cannot stand alone, but has to be thought into meeting-rooms, desktops, App strategies, and leverage the habits of both techno-fobes and techno-fanatics to deliver positive change in their day-to-day workflows.

The same goes for workplace design, cafeterias, social collaboration, car, etc. I’ve seen too many well-meaning renewal projects grind to a halt or have little or no impact, because they only focused on one piece of the puzzle and ignored the big picture.

Obviously we’ll never know enough to have a perfect 20-20 vision of the future, but a clear vision of what we think it’ll be, no matter how ambitious or abstract, adds a level of direction that gives meaning and add value beyond what can be achieved by individual projects or areas.

This is how you build an enterprise. Not just by building the best components and solutions in the world, but by thinking them into a vision of what you believe will happen. Even if that future is always uncertain and your vision therefore sounds a bit far-fetched and naive.