The New Visionaries: An Interview With Susan Scrupski

I’ve known Susan Scrupski since we served on the Enterprise 2.0 conference program committee, and followed her creation of the 2.0 Adoption Council. Over the years we’ve become friends, and I thought it was high time to interview her for this series.

About Susan Scrupski

susanscrupski_1360085267_8

Susan is, her about.me tells us,

tirelessly working to foster new thinking and behaviors in global enterprises.

Susan Scrupski founded the The 2.0 Adoption Council and is currently growing Change Agents Worldwide.

The Interview

Stowe Boyd: I’ve watched your work since the mid ‘00s, when we served together on the Enterprise 2.0 conference program committee. And I was very intrigued when you formed The 2.0 Adoption Council. What led to the formation of the Council? You merged that into Dachis Group where it became the Social Business Council, which seems to have gone dark since September (see Juxtaposition: Dachis Group is acquired by Sprinklr, PostShift opens for business). Is it dead now?


The same way Airbnb is in the hospitality business without hotels, we are in the consulting business without employees. – Susan Scrupski

Susan Scrupski: I’d been blogging and tracking the developments of what we originally called, “Web 2.0 in the Enterprise” from 2006 on my ITSinsider blog. You and I served together as board members on the first Enterprise 2.0 Conference held in Boston in 2007. Back in those days, it was a small cadre of passionate people who were writing about the so-called movement around more open and collaborative ways of connecting and working in the large enterprise.

As a board member of the E20 conference, I noticed something distinctly different at the 2009 conference – customers were actually showing up. At that time, there was no real expertise on how to “do” E20, as most of the early adopters were just experimenting themselves. There were no consulting firms who had more knowledge than the customers themselves; not even the platform vendors were able to help these early adopters in many cases. So, The 2.0 Adoption Council was the solution to that problem in a classic startup sense. It was wildly successful and grew to many hundreds of members in a few short months. As we rolled into 2010, I started looking for ways to grow the Council beyond my ability to support it as a sole proprietor. Altimeter made me an offer; I spoke to Emergence Capital about possible funding, but it wasn’t until I had a conversation with Jeff Dachis that I felt I was ready to take the Council to the next level.

Dachis Group acquired the Council in 2010, and ultimately rebranded it to become the Social Business Council. Considering the exit Dachis Group just made, it’s clear to see why the Council was not really a fit as the focus of the company turned more toward building software for marketers. Dachis Group pulled the plug on the Council in the fall of 2013.

SB: You’ve now started Change Agents Worldwide. What’s the vision for that group?

SS: My vision has remained constant since I started tracking this space. I’ve always advocated for advancing the liberating, evolved freedoms that come along with the adoption of more human-based technologies and processes for the large enterprise. I learned a lot about networks and how people behave and what they can achieve together in networks via my experience with the Council. More importantly, I learned that there are a lot of people around the world who share my beliefs, and that there is a certain DNA required to do this sort of work.

Change Agents Worldwide is the next evolution of the work I’ve been doing since 2006. The group’s vision is squarely centered on helping large companies transition from old world models established in the industrial era to modern network-based, agile models that improve not only the work experience for the workforce, but lead to top-line gains in innovation and growth. We are a small cadre of professionals from various disciplines (HR/learning, IT, Marketing, R&D, OD, KM, Innovation) who share the same vision and values, and we run our company in the way we’re advocating by putting these principles in practice.


We’ve moved beyond the adoption of new technologies to the core tenets of what it will take to evolve the organization and the nature of work itself for the future. At Change Agents Worldwide, we believe that embracing the principles of social (transparency, authenticity, trust, and a culture of sharing/collaboration) are the foundation for the future of work. – Susan Scrupski

SB: CAWW is a loose network of cooperators? The Agents are not employees drawing a salary, right? How does an engagement with an organization work?

SS: Engagement happens within our private client pods. The network is not really that loose. We see ourselves more as a coalition and engagement within our network is fairly high. When we’re talking about project work, we like to describe our network as a “collaborative sharing economy model for consulting.” We don’t have employees; we have network members who consult. So, the same way Airbnb is in the hospitality business without hotels, we are in the consulting business without employees.

SB: What’s your take on the ‘social business is dead’ meme? My position is that it’s not dead, but it’s not enough, either: there are a number of critical trends and tech impacting the modern business, and social is just one among a short list of major forces.

SS: I was against co-opting the social business label for this sector from the beginning because it was essentially “taken” already by Nobel Peace Prize winner Muhammad Yunus, who just so happened to be trying to solve world poverty. I couldn’t convince anyone it was a bad idea back in ‘08 or so when it cropped up, so I capitulated. That editorial footnote aside, in theory, the macro conversation around what our industry’s version of social business stood for is still as relevant today as ever, in many ways, even more so. It’s problematic, however, that social pundits oftentimes use “social business” to describe two completely different phenomena, namely social inside the enterprise vs. external social media marketing and customer relations. These two worlds share a common vocabulary, but oftentimes confuse and conflate issues, further damaging a busy executive’s ability to fully grok what the import of these trends are and how they can help (and hurt) the company. Add to that the internationally well-understood concepts behind Social Enterprise (businesses with a social or environmental mission) and Yunus’ Social Business, and it just gets needlessly more complicated.


Stowe Boyd: What do you think is the single greatest barrier to company’s adopting those organization changes?
Susan Scrupski: Ironically? Success.

To your second point, could not agree more. We’ve moved beyond the adoption of new technologies to the core tenets of what it will take to evolve the organization and the nature of work itself for the future. At Change Agents Worldwide, we believe that embracing the principles of social (transparency, authenticity, trust, and a culture of sharing/collaboration) are the foundation for the future of work. Upon that foundation, organizations must retool to embrace the ubiquity of mobility, sensors, robotics, and whatever is coming next that stand to upend businesses and whole industries. And that’s just the technology thrust. The organizational changes required to compete in the 21st century are even more complex and more difficult for prevailing socially stratified leadership to accept. That’s the greater challenge, and where real expertise is in short supply.

SB: What do you think is the single greatest barrier to company’s adopting those organization changes?

SS: Ironically? Success. Successful companies have no intrinsic motivation to change, but dating back to a piece I like to refer to by the founder of BCG written in 1968, “Why Change is so Difficult,” there are predominantly three dependent reasons why companies fail to change and ultimately fail altogether: executive management doesn’t recognize or believe there is a fundamental shift underway important enough to affect the business, leadership doesn’t champion the change, and by the time they figure it out, it’s too late. This has never been more true than it is today.

SB: Thanks for your time, Susan.

SS: My pleasure Stowe! Thanks for having me.

Relevant Analyst
Stowe Boyd

Stowe Boyd

Lead analyst Gigaom Research

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