The Age of Dissonance

As Enterprise 2.0 initiatives continue to proliferate, I cannot see how the latent dissonance I perceive and have tried to articulate will be avoided. I think it will have to be addressed by using new design principles for knowledge work.

This is one of the conclusions that Jon Husband makes in Work Design – From Industrial to Networked Age Part 1, Part 2A, Part 2B. Jon talks about “vertical knowledge disrupted”:

Performance objectives, job assignments, compensation arrangements and bonus schemes are generally almost always predicated on causality derived from the vertical arrangements of knowledge and its use in planned and structured initiatives.  As more and more knowledge work is carried out by people communicating and exchanging information using hyperlinks in social networks, where the places knowledge lives and that facilitate its routing to where it is needed, at a point in time, the vertical arrangements for guiding the flows of knowledge are disrupted, if not subverted. Weinberger’s most recent work, Everything Is Miscellaneous, is a beginning treatise on this subject.

I sat in a presentation of a talent management system last week and after being shown how skills could be categorized and people identified for progression, I had one question. How can you prepare for a job that does not even exist yet? Many of us are doing work that we would never have imagined one or two decades ago. How about professional blogger or podcaster? Imagine a talent management system in 1999 that was preparing junior journalists to become a newspaper’s full-time representative in Second Life. You cannot use an accountant’s rear view perspective to prepare for an unknown future. It is better to nurture a mix of people with a variety of skills, experiences and attitudes, much as nature does with ecosystems. A biological model trumps a mechanistic one in adaptation to change.

Picture: Knowledge work framework by Lilia Efimova

New design principles, from instructional development to job descriptions, are needed for our inter-networked society. I’ve started looking at a new design for the training department but redesign is needed everywhere. I think that more people are looking for new designs and are willing to try them out, if they can. The economic crisis may actually help bring about some needed change. So here’s a new job description to insert into all those talent management systems: work redesigner.

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