Seven years and 95 theses

Do hyperlinks really subvert hierarchy? I recently asked on Twitter. They can when people outside the organization take advantage of ridiculously easy group-forming. Examples such as United Breaks Guitars and the various mass, decentralized and social revolutions show what is possible when hyperlinks subvert hierarchy.

However, are there any workplace examples, where existing management practices were forced to change? I don’t know of any, though I think we will see many in the near future.

I read the Cluetrain Manifesto when it was developed and published online in 1999. I even bought a dead-tree version a few years years later. I’m still amazed how many senior executives have never even heard of the Cluetrain. While it may be a bit of a rant, it’s available online for free and makes some very important statements that still resonate a decade later. The Internet has changed the way we work.

Many of my posts over the past 7 years have been inspired by one of the Cluetrain’s 95 theses.

2004 – Lee LeFever hits the nail on the head with this Esse Quam Videre (to be rather than seem) post about weblogging in business. It’s just too easy to see through the smoke when you post every day. You have to be yourself, or you’ll get caught. Lee talks about this idea stemming from the Cluetrain Manifesto (worth the read in spite of its rant style). From Rick Levine’s section of Cluetrain, “Talk is Cheap”, is this excellent sidebar – “A knowledge worker is someone who’s job is having really interesting conversations at work.” That would be most bloggers, I would say.

2005 – Regular readers know that I often refer to The Cluetrain Manifesto. If you haven’t read it yet, take a look at the 95 theses, but I’d suggest that you read the whole book – online or in print. Scott Adams has taken the theses and re-mixed them for education. I’ve re-mixed a bit more, but don’t have the energy (yet) to address all 95:

  • Learning is conversation.
  • Learners are human beings, not demographic sectors.
  • What’s happening to education is also happening among learners. A metaphysical construct called “The School” is the only thing standing between the two.
  • To traditional educational institutions, networked conversations may appear confused, may sound confusing. But we, the learners, are organizing faster than they are. We have better tools, more new ideas, no rules to slow us down.

2006 – Markets are conversations and conversations [relationships] create markets … Let’s go back to the Cluetrain Manifesto, from which we get the initial thesis that markets are conversations. In this case, I think that theses 11 and 12 are much more pertinent:

#11. People in networked markets have figured out that they get far better information and support from one another than from vendors. So much for corporate rhetoric about adding value to commoditized products.

#12. There are no secrets. The networked market knows more than companies do about their own products. And whether the news is good or bad, they tell everyone.

2007 – One of the main forces of change that will affect how we learn is the weakening of the industrial command & control organisation. We don’t need a third party to mediate our learning because we can find interesting stuff and interesting people (interesting to us, at least) on the Web. I see those workers, who one could call the “Cluetrained’, as already dropping out of the bottom of the industrial organisation’s pyramid and doing it on their own. “It” meaning working, learning, creating and collaborating.

2008 – Here is an important note to corporations; Cluetrain Thesis #20:

Companies need to realize their markets are often laughing. At them.

Gee, what’s next, people making fun of education?

2009 – Cluetrain #10. As a result, markets are getting smarter, more informed, more organized. Participation in a networked market changes people fundamentally.

Jeff Jarvis:

To make the money I don’t make teaching, I consult and speak for various media companies and brands. The only reason I get those gigs is because companies read the ideas I discuss at Buzzmachine and ask me to come and repeat them in PowerPoint form and explore them with their staff. I’ve also been asked to teach executives how to blog (a class that should, by rights, take about two minutes). That work and the teaching get me to a nice income in six figures. So I’m not looking quite as idiotic now, I hope.

Rob Paterson:

NPR, all my work in New Media, Blackwater, Education – all my paying gigs have come through this medium [blogging].

2010 – It is only by working (and learning) interdependently, retaining our autonomy, co-developing our mastery and feeling a shared sense of purpose that we will be truly motivated. The opportunity the Internet has given individuals is the chance to work cooperatively toward a shared purpose (Seb Paquet calls this “ridiculously easy group-forming”). The Internet also affords organizations the opportunity to loosen the dependence of workers through participative engagement (as The Cluetrain Manifesto explained a decade ago). The new organization must be some mix of free-agent autonomy, support mechanisms for mastery, and a wide enough span for each person to develop a personal sense of purpose.

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