management in perpetual beta

We are arriving at a break-point with the existing economy, one dominated by markets, as we enter the network era. A creative economy is emerging and our existing institutions and markets cannot deal with it. Tim O’Reilly calls this The WTF Economy, and is bringing people together to understand and deal with it.

What is the future when more and more work can be done by intelligent machines instead of people, or only done by people in partnership with those machines? What happens to workers, and what happens to the companies that depend on their purchasing power? What’s the future of business when technology-enabled networks and marketplaces are better at deploying talent than traditional companies? What’s the future of education when on-demand learning outperforms traditional universities in keeping skills up to date?


smart cities need smart citizens

I will be speaking this Wednesday in Issy-les-Moulineaux, France at a conference on ‘The Smart City, the Cloud, and Citizens’ (link in French).  My presentation will be short and focused. Here are the main points, in English. The French version may be webcast, so watch my Twitter feed for updates.

We are connecting our cities to the cloud via the internet of everything, so that objects share data with each other. With these data, governments, organizations, and companies can sense patterns and make decisions – from traffic control to geographically specific advertising. But this is merely the tip of the iceberg of the real potential of smart cities and digital networks. A major challenge for society will be to enable an intelligent and aggressively engaged citizenry to build upon the potential of these growing digital interconnections. (more…)

friday’s finds #248

Every fortnight I curate some of the observations and insights that were shared on social media. I call these Friday’s Finds.

@willrich45 – Engagement: “Not a metric for learning. A prerequisite.

@trishgreenhalgh – “2nd big message on NHS [National Health Service]  IT [information technology]:”ruthless standardisation” held back progress. We need local innovation, customisation, ad hoc solutions if needed(more…)

turmoil and transition

One of the greatest issues that will face Canada, and many developed countries in the next decade will be wealth distribution. While it does not currently appear to be a major problem, the disparity between rich and poor will increase. The main reason will be the emergence of a post-job economy. The ‘job’ was the way we redistributed wealth, making capitalists pay for the means of production and in return creating a middle class that could pay for mass produced goods. That period is almost over. From self-driving vehicles to algorithms replacing knowledge workers, employment is not keeping up with production. Value in the network era is accruing to the owners of the platforms, with companies such as Instagram reaching $1 billion valuations with only 13 employees.

We have connected the world so that data and information can flow in the  blink of an eye. There are fewer information asymmetries, as companies like Amazon bust down one industry after another. Interconnectedness and increasing computational power will continue to automate work and outsource any job that can be standardized. New businesses are employing fewer employees, while manufacturing is moving to an increased use of robots.

loosening group boundaries

“When a society is too grouped, people do not have any social contact with people from other groups,” [University of Pennsylvania’s] Centola said. “People with the same job all attended the same school, live in the same neighborhood and frequent the same clubs. Their networks do not expand beyond that group.”

Loosening these tight group boundaries means that people’s next-door neighbors may have different jobs or levels of education, but they may still have similar politics or recreational activities. These similarities allow people in different social groups to encourage the adoption of a new complex idea, take neighborhood recycling as an example, which can then spread to other neighborhoods and social groups.

But when group boundaries are eliminated entirely, people have almost nothing in common with their neighbors and therefore very little influence over one another, making it impossible to spread complex ideas. – PhysOrg

The Triple A Organization (Awareness, Alternatives, Action) by Valdis Krebs takes this into consideration, promoting organizational dynamics that connect unique group boundaries but do not destroy them. (more…)

networked unmanagement

What are fundamental changes necessary to shift the dominant organizational model toward stronger networks and temporary, mutually negotiated hierarchies?

Yesterday I spoke with the founders of a small start-up that has seen good growth and is looking at how best to structure for the future. They realized that most existing management models did not make sense for their case, as they have both for-profit and non-profit divisions, and while small, have operations on two continents. They have been provided with a lot of advice around business models from local government and industry, but they have not seen any models that reflect the reality of the network era: post-job, global, digital, mobile, complex, creative, agile, self-managing, etc.

I said that in my experience, nobody has really figured this out. Frédéric Laloux has found some commonalities for what he calls Teal organizations, and Niels Pflaeging has established some solid principles to organize for complexity. Neither of these approaches is widespread or tested at scale. My advice was that they need to build their own model, based on some general principles, within their specific complex context, which only they can understand. (more…)

time to start cooperating

In tribal societies, your family is your source of power. In institutions, it is your position in the hierarchy. In markets, dominance is through competition. We are a tri-form society: Tribal + Institution + Markets. The latter currently dominates how we organize as a society. It is competitive. School is competitive, with individual grades. Work is competitive, with many more applicants than positions available. Individual performance reviews dominate in the workplace. We are told that we have to create our personal brands, because the world is competitive.

As networks replace markets as the primary organizational form, will competition continue to be the best way for us to work? (more…)