With a hyper-connected society, enabled by over 2 billion connected people and an expected 50 billion devices in the near future, the environment any organization is facing is much more complex than it was a couple of decades ago. But this was when most executives were learning how to do their jobs. Many are ill-equipped for the cognitive overload they face, as traditional jobs – from typing, to customer service, to legal research – are constantly automated by software. Software enabled teams like AirBNB, Netflix, and Uber, are able to directly compete with industry incumbents, and can do so with significantly fewer employees.
Meanwhile, inside the organization, information remains in silos, unable to cross artificial boundaries, slowing down knowledge flow. But increasing access to information with the installation of an enterprise social network to replace the aging intranet will not address the new cognitive load of most knowledge workers. New disciplines, like personal knowledge mastery, based on seeking, sense-making, and sharing have to be adopted. New practices, such as working out loud, have to be supported. In addition, a new culture of constant experimentation and acceptance of failure, has to be embraced.
The need to adapt to complexity is increasing, as mobile becomes our default mode of communication. In a mobile world, every knowledge worker’s job is to make the complex simple. This is a difficult task, requiring practice and more importantly, cooperation with others. But if we do not make our knowledge objects – reports, written messages, visuals – simple and easy for a mobile world, we will not be heard. The medium is the message, and the mobile medium is sending a message: TL;DR [too long, didn’t read].
This is just one example of how our complex world is forcing us to simplify. The internet is enabled by “small pieces, loosely joined”, and we now have to communicate in “small thoughts, loosely joined”, in order to share all the knowledge necessary just to keep up in the network era. The challenge will be to ensure that we do not simplify our thinking.