I received a copy of Dave Gray’s The Connected Company from O’Reilly books and must say that Dave has done a great job. It is a comprehensive read, covering complexity and networks, and how they are changing business. The book also includes a lot of detail (almost 300 pages) on how to shift to becoming a connected company as well as how to lead one. In addition, the book is sprinkled with Dave’s great illustrations, making the complicated much simpler to understand. It is not a light read, but it is well written and easy to follow. There is so much detail and good information that it should be picked up by anyone managing, running, or advising any organization today.
So what is a connected company? A connected company is a complex, adaptive system that functions more like an organism than a machine. To design connected companies, we must think of the company as a complex set of connections and potential connections: a distributed organism with brains, eyes, and ears everywhere, whether they are employees, partners, customers, or suppliers. Design for connection is design for companies that are made out of people. It’s design for complexity, for productivity, and for longevity.
Connected companies are all about learning, writes Dave, and this is music to my ears. I have been saying that Work is Learning & Learning is the Work for so long now that it’s really nice to hear it from others. Seeing the prominence of learning as a business imperative is refreshing.
The learning challenge for the company comes from the dynamic relationship between the two forms of knowledge. Tacit knowledge is where the action is, and in most cases, it’s the people with the tacit knowledge that deliver the results. But the only way tacit knowledge can be broadly shared is by translating it into explicit knowledge — a very difficult task that very few companies have mastered.
As Chapter 8, Connected Companies Learn, concludes:
Most importantly, a connected company must be able to respond dynamically to change—to learn and adapt in an uncertain, ambiguous, and constantly evolving environment. A connected company is a learning company.
At the end of the book are discussion questions for each chapter. For chapter 16: How connected companies learn, the questions are: “How does our company learn and grow over time? How does individual and team learning become company learning? How do we share knowledge across the company? How might we do it better?” These are the questions I have often helped my clients to ask. This is an excellent business book for the network era, and one that I would highly recommend for learning and performance professionals as well.