Anatomy Of The Enterprise Octopus

Some of you may have read the original Enterprise Octopus post, which introduced the icon and explained the difference between The Enterprise Octopus (people-centric work) and The Enterprise Filing Cabinet (file-centric work). I wanted to take this further by turning on the x-ray and giving you a look at what’s inside both scenarios. First, let’s start with “the two Me’s:”

The Enterprise Filing Cabinet

Most companies live and work in the Enterprise Filing Cabinet. They live in a pile of documents, with only a personal typewriter, calendar, mail, flip chart and calculator as tools for working with others. People receive tons of files, paper-clipped to tons of emails. Then they have to launch lots of applications to read those files. It’s not clear where to find anything, what’s happening, who knows what, and if it’s been done before. Like your co-workers, customers and partners are walled off in a completely different universe from you.

The Enterprise Octopus

The Enterprise Octopus turns things right-side up. It introduces a geographic head to the Enterprise and it’s in the head where all the improvement occurs. First and foremost, note that it’s a mix of all stakeholders occupying the head. That includes employees, partners, and customers. They’re all in there. They can see each other. Connect to each other. Work with each other. And since the “new me” has a radar for a head, I know how and where to focus my attention with any of these people. The head is where the real future IP is (both the “me” head and the Octopus head). It may be hard to think of this in future-terms now, but I can imagine all sorts of new innovation in the head.

For you octopus-knowledgeable, the arms of an octopus literally have minds of their own and The Enterprise Octopus is no exception. The arms are not in the head but they are an important part of the system. They’re utilities. They connect to old and existing systems. In this case, they know where to reach to accomplish three different activities:

1. File. The Octopus knows where to reach to grab the right file and retrieve it for socialization. Equally, it knows just where to deposit something now that it has been created by the social group. The filing cabinet can then do what it does best, manage files.

2. Compute. There are times when the The Enterprise Octopus needs to use an arm to crunch numbers. Particularly to analyze what’s happening within the head. But sometimes its purely to deposit important data into other number crunching systems (e.g. an ERP system).

3. Deliver. This arm sends and receives. It can receive email or other inputs and it can equally send out important notifications from the head to other systems or people working in Enterprise Filing Cabinets.


I rekon you could call this my version of Andrew McAfee’s SLATES, by that I mean a framework where future people-centric innovation needs to occur. You could call it “Enterprise 2.0″ but then you’d be using a buzzword. You could think in terms of existing tools but then you’d be looking backwards. The industry needs to evolve to value COLORS more than they do today, to think bigger, to solve the people-centric problems of the Enterprise. Doing so means better/faster/more agile companies who produce better products, services and revenue. Yes, I understand that there are cultural ramifications to all this “co” stuff. But it’s happening bit by bit, as much as we think it may never get there. And the key is to make all this so friction-free-usable that people actually want to participate. That said, it’s pretty easy to be a Norman on this stuff.


At the heart of most of the early value has been the notion around co-Creation. For example, we’re both working on a doc or a spreadsheet. But we need more obvious places to be able to co-create based on our current and/or missing behavior. There should be easier ways to identify when creation is already occurring and easier ways to jump in with your half-baked ingredients to help make that creation more valuable. Along with the other parts of COLORS, adding this value to my network ends up being how I’m measured as an employee. Are my contributions valuable and easily measured? Am I helping my network create? There’s a lot more room for innovation for enabling this critical part of the head.


Fertile territory are tools for helping people-centric management. Literally, there’s a new set of skills that managers need. How will they measure the train yard? How will they make decisions? What operations should be collaborative? I imagine new KPIs cross functional managers can use to help drive the business. Whatever new operations tools could emerge, they should be part of the head. Perhaps they are things like reputation scoring, the quality of co-created deliverables, or “repair” rate. Who knows. These could have scores. They could have visibility. They could help managers understand how effective their socially-driven team is and help them manage their own effectiveness at making the situation better.


There has to be better ways of surfacing real learning and having it be absorbed by the geographic center. Millions are wasted when institutional knowledge walks away and it’s too hard to find what really matters. Company “universities” are siloed off. Project learning never makes it back into the system again. The wheel is recreated. We need easier ways to demarcate important scar tissue and have it be super visible. I can save tons by immediately learning what we’ve learned. We can grow much faster as an organization.


Think of this is way more effective baton passing. Formal workflows don’t work. People need to know where things are and when it’s right for them to engage. They even need to know how other people like to be engaged. Making sure the trains run on time is big business and things like social workflows and much easier coordination of work can make big gains for companies. I’d like to look into the head of the Octopus and know where the batons are, when it will be time for me to add value and how I can keep things most effectively moving.


Human Resources is the trump card in people-centric collaboration. Behavior is an often talked about critical ingredient to the evolution of the social productivity market. HR needs much better tools to be able to measure and enable a behavior-positive environment. They can help folks learn what’s working and what’s not working. How to be proficient, where to utilize their talents. How to engage more effectively. They can tap the reputation of the network and employ those resources where they’re needed. They can provide intelligence to the execs they never had before. Reputation, behavior and network intelligence are yet-to-be-serviced aspects of the Octopus head.


There are a whole slew of solutions that we can develop around how we work with employees, partners, prospects and customers to jointly respond to and solve their problems. I think of this as MDRM (market development relationship management). It’s a new collaborative layer on top of CRM that provides a way to respond to and engage with the outside world in a way that makes sense for product development, sales, marketing and operations.

This is merely an idea, meant for refinement.

I don’t mean any of this to be overly prescriptive. It’s merely a framework for how I think of future innovation within the Enterprise Octopus head. I welcome folks to refine, blow up or otherwise improve any or all of these notions.