The Tribal form of society was premised on kinship, which added the Institutional form based on hierarchical position, and later the Market form based on competitive advantage. The current Market form of society is a myopic creature, extracting short-term value from the entire ecosystem and redistributing it to a priesthood of investors. Every quarter companies must pay tribute to the gods of the market. Even our governments are run like markets, with slightly longer payback periods. The US House of Representatives gets market feedback every two years, the Australian government every three years, Canadian parliamentarians every four years, and lucky US Senators every six years. The focus on short-term results is the hallmark of the market era.
What will the network era bring? Longer term thinking or actions based on micro-feedback? Both are likely. If reputation is the source of power and influence in the network era, then long-term strategies are necessary to build it and keep it. But if big data tells us everything that is happening in the moment, we may be seduced into continuously shifting with the spirit of the times. This tension is the great challenge in building new organizational models. How can we balance the short and long term? It is tempting to focus on the short term, as we see with data analytics for everything, including learning, which is definitely a long-term endeavour.
Developing ways to ensure a long term view will be necessary to counter the urge to do everything at twitch speed. Our markets have shown themselves susceptible to this in the way currency markets work. We still see the excesses of the market era in sweat shops around the world. We need to start now on creating new forms of long-term governance structures, political as well as commercial, to control the potential excesses of the network era. One way is to focus our training and education programs on long term thinking, not mere job preparation or 21st century skills. As with those educational visionaries who built our public education systems, there is again an opportunity for learning and development to lead the way.