Why organizations don’t implement virtual social networks

Because management is scared.

Because time spent on social networks is not immediately productive. Where is the tangible output?

Because reinforcing the informal organization dis-empowers the formal hierarchy.

Because management feels it looses control.

Because if we allow employees to write what they want, they might sabotage the organization.

Only a few organizations will understand that the value of leaving employees express their creativity is the key to success in the Collaborative Age.
These organizations will dwarf all others.

Because these organizations will have had their hierarchy and bureaucracy sabotaged.

When do you let aside this illusion of control, and create an internal social network in your organization?


A Revolution in organization management legitimacy

In the Industrial Age, organization management is all about control of the information.

Communication means are scarce, the hierarchical organization is the best way to coordinate the organization by minimizing communication channels. Sitting at the top of his pyramid, the manager is the only one that has access to all the available information. His legitimacy is information control. His main skill is information processing. His tool is the scarce long distance telephone, the telex, the telegram.

manager at desk 1950

Today long distance communication is abundant. It does not require any more a dedicated infrastructure. Organizations do not need any more to organize around scarce information transmission. Hierarchy is obsolete. Network, matrix, fluid organization is of the essence.

Information is everywhere, scattered. Controlling the information, restricting access to it is a hindrance. It destroys opportunities for value creation.

What is then the legitimacy of the manager in the Collaborative Age? Instead of controlling and restricting information, he or she makes it more free and accessible. The manager gives access to resources, iinformation. The manager creates connections, interaction and links.

When will managers stop believing their legitimacy is information control and processing? When will they focus exclusively on creating value through interactions? When will they free information?


Management’s will to control everything needs to stop

In the Industrial Age, management was controlling everything. Efficiency was about minimizing movement, focusing on work. The work was divided in small chunks. Productivity was key.

old office organization

Management was controlling everything to make sure nobody wasted time. No initiative was tolerated. It would have disturbed the order of things so well engineered by much more knowledgeable managers.

This approach was great. In a world of scarcity, commodities were appreciated when one could get it. This method has produced great improvements in productivity, cheap products and as a result a much better lifestyle on average.

Today the world is one of abundance. We don’t care so much about commodities. We want choice. We want creative products. We want something different.

Never mind the grandiose plans of the managers. The organization won’t produce that without the bottom-up initiatives of all it’s members.

Unleashing the initiative has a difficult side. Managers are not any more controlling everything. They do not decide any more which product will work, which product will not.

Today many managers still want to believe they are entirely in control. But they are not. It is an illusion. In these conditions, taking an initiative in an organization is difficult. It needs persistence. It often fails because managers fear losing control. Value that could have been created is lost.

Managers need to keep true the purpose and the values of the organization. But they are not any more in control of the details of it’s destiny.

When will managers and senior executives stop believing they are in control, and when will they voluntarily unleash the initiative of the organization?


Management and leadership skills are complementary, not opposed

In the Industrial Age, Management and Leadership were opposed.

management old styleManagement was tweaking the process to gain efficiency. That was a hands-on, hence dirty job. Reserved for young people or people that could not get promoted.

Leadership was the clean realm of ideas. After a certain age you got promoted in leadership position. No more concern about the dirt. Just ideas, concepts, vision.

Transition between management and leadership was a crisis. You needed to stop doing things by yourself.

Well today it has become clear that everybody, anywhere in the organization, needs to have some leadership skills and use them when needed. And everybody needs to have management skills when it comes to improving the efficiency and reducing waste and effort for the same result.

Managers that cannot lead are boring, and dangerous for themselves. They don’t see that the world around them is changing and that the important thing is not just to optimize their little corner.
Above all, leaders that cannot manage are boring and dangerous for the organization. They become so far away from reality that they can make terribly wrong decisions.

Every day there are times we need to be managers, times we need to lead. There are also times we need to be simply human.

When do we start to be flexible and do systematically both some leading, and some managing in our normal day? When do you start to lead?


When do you start measuring yourself in terms of effectiveness?

Management means efficiency. Doing the things right. With minimum effort, waste. With maximum productivity. With less people. With less thoughts. With more procedures.
Efficiency was the thing of the Industrial Age. Produce more commodities for less. Minimize waste, increase quality.
Efficiency is the thing of the corporation.

Leadership means effectiveness. Doing the right thing. Create. Looking at the world, overcoming the fear, and doing it. Contribute to the world. Because it counts.
Effectiveness is the thing of the Collaborative Age. Maybe a computer programmer will only contribute once five lines of code to an open source software but his contribution will be decisive.

Effectiveness is the thing of the K.E.E.N, nomad between projects.

When do you stop measuring yourself in terms of efficiency? When do you start measuring yourself in terms of effectiveness, how you contribute to the world?


How can an organization mobilize the power of the ‘long tail’?

We now know that the ‘long tail’ is an extremely valuable resource.

The long tail is this large set of followers that only contribute occasionally. The thing is, because they are many, the sum of their contributions is significant.

Wikipedia is a typical product of the long tail. Linux and other open source software also.

The successful organization today will know how to create and maintain a network of followers and supporters, and draw on their creativity and insights.

How to we do that in traditional business? Experiments have just started. Some ingredients are already identified.
The organization must have a strong purpose to bring something to the world (not just making money!) to enthuse the supporters and followers. The organization must give freely to the world in order to be able to receive. The organization must foster a tribe with a distinctive sense of belonging.

Not so many traditional organizations know how to give out for free. Maybe they should start doing that. Then, inevitably, return will follow, if they are flexible enough to receive it.
funny long tail
Even dinosaurs had long tails. Hope is not lost for old-fashioned dinosaurian companies of another age! But most of them will disappear in the tremendous transformation to come.

When do your organization start giving out for free and create a tribe?


The organization needs to open itself

The organization of the Industrial Age was closed. Only insiders were allowed. Everything else was outside, in a dangerous world. The organization was a secret to be protected. External communication was carefully filtered.

The successful Collaborative Age organization will be open. It will need to be, because by doing so it can use ‘the long tail’: the suite of passionate, part-time supporters and followers that would be too expensive to maintain inside the organization but that might bring decisive a contribution.

organization in the Collaborative Age

Successful organizations today maintain a link and exchange with a wide network of supporters. Decisive improvements to Open source software are brought by users that maybe will do one single contribution in their life.

The successful organization of the Collaborative Age will use to the fullest the power of the long tail, the power of collaboration.

Organizations that will stay closed will be progressively overwhelmed by open organizations. The value and dynamism of collaboration will just dwarf them.

When do you open your organization?


Why is personal purpose so important in the Collaborative world

In the Agricultural Age, purpose was often defined by society. You did was you were born to do.
In the Industrial Age, purpose was often defined by the organization. You did what the Corporation thought what was good for you.

In the Collaborative Age, nobody tells you anything. You choose in what direction you want to go. Personal direction and purpose is needed.

purposePurpose is closely linked to enthusiasm and motivation. Enthusiasm and motivation are central for accomplishment and success. Hence, personal purpose is the centerpiece of accomplishment.

Finding one’s purpose is one of the most difficult endeavors. Actually one cannot understand one’s purpose but on his last breath. As Richard Bach, a famous contemporary US writer says: “Here is a test to find whether your mission in life is finished: if you are alive, it isn’t”. Only at this point can life make sense.

We can still define intermediate objectives and temporary purposes that lead us on the way of our life. How do we do that ? Let’s listen to ancient wisdom:
Let yourself be drawn by the stronger pull of what you really love” – Rumi, Persian poet, 13th century.
Whatever makes your heart beat, your thoughts develop enthusiastically, that can be a part of your purpose, and something worthwhile to aim into.

When do you start defining your present purpose?

When do you start living in accordance with your present purpose?


Intellectual property will have to be deeply reviewed

Intellectual property is an invention of the Industrial Revolution.

copyright sign
It is a system aimed to promote creativity and publication of ideas, against a temporary monopoly on the usage of the invention.

Intellectual property is a very static protection. It works, but for incremental inventions.

It does not work for inventions that create a rupture. Patents were an impediment to the development of aircrafts and cars at the beginning of the 20th century. Ford had to fight against patent holders for the ‘automobile’ that wanted to keep the price of cars high.

There is an other way to take advantage of one’s innovation. It is to innovate faster than the competition. It is a dynamic protection. It requires forward movement all the time.

Beyond the Fourth Revolution, dynamic innovation will be key. The static intellectual property regime will have to be deeply transformed, or it will become useless.


Career is an obsolete race in scarcity

Career comes from a Latin word meaning ‘competitive race’. It suggests competition, it suggests scarcity, it suggests linearity of the racing track, it suggests winners and loosers.

In the bureaucratic, hierarchical of the Industrial Age is was all about the race to the few coveted top positions. It was all about a linear work life in the same company, going higher or stabilizing at one’s “incompetence level”.

In the Industrial World it is all about the “rat race”. More money, more physical objects, more loans, requires more money, more work. Where is the enjoyment?

Beyond the Fourth Revolution we won’t even be able to understand the concept. It is all about going sideways, following one’s purpose. It is about a world of opportunities, a world of abundance. It is about a personal quest.

It is not any more a race in which only the elusive end result imports. It is all about the journey and enjoy it. The quest is more important than the goal.

When do you step down from the race?


Leaning into the Revolution is a choice

Kuala Lumpur, the capital of Malaysia, is a buzzing modern city. The skyline is bright.

A mere 20km East from the city center, steep hills are covered with primitive impenetrable jungle.

Impenetrable to all except the Orang Asli, the original inhabitants of the land. They continue to choose their life of hunter-gatherer. They are the only ones to understand the jungle, it’s paths and it’s life.

Today their children continue to choose to continue this hunter-gatherer life. They are poor by our standards but rich in spiritual connection with nature. They are happy.

What might they think when they see us hurrying amid the flow of artificial lights and pleasures?
Kuala Lumpur by night skylights
It is possible to decide not to lean into a new Age, into a new society. As long as this choice is conscious, it is respectable. Life can be fulfilling.

The worst is not to make any choice.

Will you choose to stay in the Industrial Age, or will you lean into the new Collaborative Age?