About 10 years ago I worked on a project with nursing staff as they changed their basic care model from one that was patient-centric to a model where “nurses engage the person/family to actively participate in learning about health”. The McGill Model of Nursing is learning-centric. This fundamental shift in focus is a prime example of the major organizational change required from both our education systems and our management models, as we transition into a networked creative economy. In an era of ubiquitous connectivity, leadership at all levels and all sectors must be about promoting learning. There is no other way to address the many wicked problems facing us. If work is learning and learning is the work, then leadership at work should be all about promoting learning.
Consider the case of young children. Do they really need to master a core curriculum? Marie Bjerede describes how she learned to relax and let her daughter take control of her own learning.
What is interesting to me about all this is that I have completely ignored my daughter’s work other than to listen when she wants to share and to provide the digital tools that make it possible. As she tells me about this passion I learn about the skills she has developed on her own: [Hours in Front of a Screen] … In other words, my daughter has taken ownership of her informal learning in an area she is passionate about. The digital resources and communities of interest available to her through the Internet means she is able to independently pursue her interests without waiting for an adult to mediate her learning. And as a side effect of doing what she loves, she is gaining both cognitive and non-cognitive skills that will serve her in college, work, and life.
Marie is taking a learning-centric approach to parenting, providing support only when asked. In adapting to perpetual beta I described how leadership in networks must be learning-centric. Leaders have to set an example by initiating change and themselves learning by doing. They also have to create systems that let others do the same.
So what is connected leadership?
Help the Network Make Better Decisions — Managers should see themselves as servant leaders. Managers must actively listen, continuously question the changing work context, help to see patterns and make sense of them, and then suggest new practices and build consensus with networked workers.
Improve insights — Too often, management only focuses on reducing errors, but it is insight that drives innovation. Leaders must loosen the filters through which information and knowledge pass in the organization and in- crease the organizational willpower to act on these insights.
Provide Learning Experiences — Managers and supervisors may be vital for workers’ performance improvement, but only if they provide opportunities for experiential learning with constructive feedback, new projects, and new skills.
Focus on the Why of Work — Current compensation systems ignore the data on human motivation. Extrinsic rewards only work for simple physical tasks and increased monetary rewards can actually be detrimental to performance, especially with knowledge work. The keys to motivation at work are for each person to have a sense of Autonomy, Competence and Relatedness, according to self-determination theory. This is a network management responsibility.
Be Knowledge Managers — Leaders need to practice and encourage personal knowledge mastery throughout the network.
Be an Example — Social networks shine a spotlight on dysfunctional managers. Cooperative behaviours require an example and that example must come from those in leadership positions. While there may be a role for good managers in networks, there likely will not be much of a future for bosses.