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:”

Old me vs Me

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.

Credit: Huge thanks to Michael Sigler and David Carrol for taking the sketches I did of all this and turning it into art, worthy of being on a poster. Hmmm. A poster! For a behind-the-scenes look at what went into this post’s creative process, be sure to check out Sigler’s blog.

  • Dick Hirsch

    Thanks for showing that corporative collaboration is not just about technology but about how we view ourselves and our relationship to others within the corporate structure. It is often this organizational structure that must be made aware of the potential that sticks in the organically-networked organization. I think technology that supports such “honest” collaboration can only grow where the corporate culture is open to it.

    As you suggest, this network isn’t just restricted to behind the firewall but must be expanded beyond it as well. MDRM is one example of this redefinition that is focused on customer relationships. I’d be curious to see how your idea of “co-solve” refers to other areas – manufacturing, logistics, etc. There is probably untapped potential there as well.

    Now that you’ve defined “Colors” as a framework, it will be interesting to see how existing technology (Web 2.0 or other types) can be mapped to these categories. As you suggest, I think you will find that such tools (wikis, blogs, etc) really don’t meet these requirements. The question is: what sort of tools provide the fertile ground to let the hidden collaborative potential to prosper. I agree that the creation of environments conducive to people-centric innovation is dependent on a variety of other factors as well. Technology is just a complementary factor. It is the identification of the entire set of influencing factors that will be the challenge for all – not only software vendors.

  • Richard Fahey

    Great Post Sam. BTW, in the UK Colors is spelt Colours so I would suggest co-Understanding. It is similar to co-Respect, but relates to an appreciation of the culture and background of those people collaborating. There is often major geographical, age, environmental, language etc. differences between the stakeholders located in the head. Without an understanding and appreciation of these factors – through knowledge of stakeholder profiles – pedantic issues can become significant stumbling blocks to effective communication.

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  • James Hipkin

    Sam this is brilliant and you are brave to be pursuing it. Corporations are so slow to change that it’s unlikely that will embrace such a radical concept. Up and coming companies, on the other hand, can gain tremendous competitive advantage from this model. It would be interesting to document the changes a company goes through as they embrace this approach.

    @Richard Fahey I am Canadian and had the opportunity to work in Europe for a number of years. I recalled being in a meeting in London where a UK Exec. was in conversation w/ an Exec. from the US. They talked for at least 30 minutes and I was the only one in the room who knew they were talking about different things. Two countries divided by a common language.

  • Paisano

    Excellent summation of the power of corporate collaboration! Here’s your theme song:

    As an IT admin, I love making my users’ life easier at work by centralizing everything I can. The most important of all being files and documents (Enterprise Content Management). Controlling a company’s content is critical but it’s always shocking to me to see how few actually realize this and do nothing about it. Most firms just deal with their document dumping grounds and establish and actually encourage make-shift processes for searching and sharing these documents in time-wasting procedures. Hence, data glut and document duplicity and lost content which all adds up to lost time and money.

    I’m excited about technologies like ClearSpace and yes even SharePoint, which has been a pioneer in taking control of the corporate environment (faults and warts and all). Jive Software is merely taking it all to the next level and pushing Microsoft to raise their game (thank God!).


  • Steve Mann

    Great post Sam. I’m sending it on to some Board Members

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  • Julio Fernandez

    Hi Sam, thanks for turning on the x-ray and giving us a look at what’s inside. I did some work on cross functional KPIs as well as reputation scoring and agree with you 100%. With the challenging economy for consumers, companies that understand their KPIs will be able to react accordingly and win!

  • Godon Taylor

    Seems to me, that at the heart of all of this octobabble is people.

    The big change in thinking that underlies the Enterprise Octopus model of work is that people are smart enough (and well enough equipped) to figure out what to do next.

    Knowledge Work isn’t prescriptive – it’s adaptive and reactive.
    Unlike say, some abandoned unread process manual lying (somwhere) in the Enterprise File Cabinet…

    The transition problem is looming pretty large though – let’s face it – people have been programmed the wrong way for a _long_ time…

    (And for the rest of you octopus-knowledgable, I think the Enterprise Octopus’ scientific name is Cephlapoda Enterprentia :)

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  • Warren Sukernek

    Great post Sam! I am passing it around our company as a best practice for enterprise collaboration. Excellent graphics as well–you are becoming Armano-esque.

  • colin

    Really interesting stuff Sam. Who does your graphics? : )

  • Stephen

    I agree with all of this and think your illustrations wonderfully show the transitions that technology has eased and accelerated. is a way to take all of these concepts further and I hope you’ll sign up for the beta test.


  • Vladislav Chernyshov

    Nice tutorial! =)

  • Marilyn Pratt

    Stunning graphics, and as always lots of clarity and transparency in all you do. One other image comes to mind talking about clarity and vision. Let’s not forget Octopus Ink. I can’t help but thinking it’s one of the best strategic defense mechanisms of our friend the Octopus (obscure itself in a cloud). Hmmmm, see real-life example of the flip side of collaborative transparency

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  • Michael Sigler

    To those curious about the graphics, that was a combination of myself and David Carroll. I honestly thought Sam’s idea wasn’t doable when he first presented it. A little hard work paid off.

    Sam already linked to it above but you can see the illustration progression here:

    David’s site is here:

    Thanks for the props. :)

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  • Dan Keldsen

    Sam – As always, great graphics, and nice extra color commentary on 1.0 vs 2.0 – have you seen our slide on the evolution of 1.0->1.5->2.0 technology and the cultures they tended to be aligned with? Not nearly as well illustrated, but honing in on similar points.

    The “co-[fill in the blank]” is very nice. Easy to see you put significant effort into forming the thoughts and graphics to go with them. That said, I disagree with your take on “co-Ordination” – formal workflow doesn’t ALWAYS work, and that’s why ad-hoc workflow is important to keep in mind. However, without formal workflow, we wouldn’t have working power, phones, airline traffic (whoops, got me there), healthcare processes, insurance companies, build-to-order computers, etc..

    For all the messy business processes that aren’t being captured/facilitated adequately via other systems/techniques though, yes, right there with you.

    Overall though, this a nice addition to the thinking going on – and Michael and David are one heck of a resource for you in executing the final renditions. Great job guys!

    BTW – seeing your COLORS acronym makes me want to bust out a certain rap from the late 80s movie of the same name. Embed some audio? :)

  • Ben Tremblay

    In my experience innovation only moves forward when A-list types find a way of appropriating the work of independent thinkers, while continuing to abuse that group with plausibly deniable benign neglect.

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