organizing for the network era

In my last post I noted that many organizations today are nothing more than attractive prisons. The current organizational tyranny was a response to a linear, print-based world. These organizations are artifacts of a time when information was scarce and hard to share, and when connections with others were difficult to make and required command and control. The network era, with digital electric communications, changes this. Organizations today should be designed more like the internet: small pieces, loosely joined.

Last year I described several of my principles and models for the network era and showed how they related to each other. I would like to put these together in a coherent framework to show how we can design organizations for the network era, instead of ones optimized for markets, institutions, or tribes. The network era needs new structures, not modified versions of obsolete models. (more…)

attractive prisons

Today we hear a lot about models like holacracy and teal organizations that are focused on changing how we work together in organizations.

Teal organization: A new kind of organization designed to enable “whole” individuals (not narrow professional selves) to self-organize and self-manage to achieve an organic organizational purpose (determined not through hierarchical planning but incrementally, responsively, and from the bottom up).

Holacracy: The most widely adopted system of self-management, developed in 2007 by Brian Robertson. Authority and decision making are distributed among fluid “circles” (defined below) throughout the organization, and governance is spelled out in a complex constitution.

Podularity: A system of self-management in which each basic unit, or “pod,” is treated as a microcosm of the whole business and acts on its behalf. Podularity has its roots in agile (defined below).

Agile: A theory of management originating in software development. In an agile system of work, cross-functional, self-managed teams solve complex problems iteratively and adaptively—when possible, face-to-face—with rapid and flexible responses to changing customer needs. —Harvard Business Review 2016-07

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the world needs knowledge catalysts

“We live in a society absolutely dependent on science and technology and yet have cleverly arranged things so that almost no one understands science and technology. That’s a clear prescription for disaster.” —Carl Sagan

When people are presented with a problem the first urge is to resolve it. If the computer does not work, they want it fixed. Then they can move on to what they were trying to do in the first place. But quite often the source of the problem did not go away. People also need to understand how the problem was created. This requires time and effort to learn. But when the problem is gone, there is little incentive to learn about the implications and complexities that created the problem. (more…)

understanding work

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

@DonaldHTaylor: ‘In Turkish you never ask “Did you understand me?” It’s rather rude. Instead, you say “Anlatabildim mi?” – Was I able to explain?’

@suitpossum: “The world is not data. The world is soil, sun, water, bodies, communities, sweat & oil. Data is an echo of these. It is not ‘the new oil'”

@Tom_Peters: “Zuckerberg has a “vision”: To know every conceivable thing about me including things I don’t know; then “monetize” every bit and byte of it.” (more…)

life in the jungle

How can you survive in the jungle when you live in a zoo?

“Our silos (I won’t even mention cubicles!), like the cages in the zoo, exist to control behaviour and reduce complexity by creating homogeneity and closed environments. OD & HR professionals spend an inordinate amount of time trying to find new and better ways of categorising, a direct result of which is the so-called ‘matrix organisation’. Linked to that are new and better ways of incentivising the ‘animals’ to keep performing because like zoos, many organisations aren’t particularly inspiring places. Besides food and other treats, there’s not much else that can motivate, engage or inspire creativity.” —Sonja Blignaut

In our efforts to tame complexity we constantly look for ways to simplify decision-making. It’s why best practices and case studies are still popular, despite their uselessness. It reminds me of a client who proudly declared that his company was a ‘fast follower’. Followers in the jungle are eaten or survive as scavengers. (more…)

future hedging

“The future of work will be based on hacking uncertainty and hedging risks through post-blockchain smart contracts, learning and social capital.

The main question is perhaps not what skills we should have in the future, but how we hedge the risks that are inbuilt in our world, our unique knowledge assets, the know-what, the know-who and know-how of our life.” —Esko Kilpi

In hedging the future of work, Esko Kilpi describes three areas of work that need to be negotiated by knowledge workers in the digital network era.

  1. Long-term Collectives
  2. Short-term Communities
  3. Flash Networks

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owning your data

I was recently interviewed for an article in Forbes magazine and asked what I thought about ‘The Cloud’. There was a typographical error in my response, so here it is corrected.

I cannot see why any organization would put all of its data online. The Cloud is just a different term for someone else’s computer, which you do not control. It may make sense to have some data in The Cloud to improve flexibility and accessibility, but as we see everyday, these systems break or get hacked. Own your critical data.

For the past ten years I have advocated owning your data. This means having access to what you post online and the ability to move it if you need to. For example, this website is built on WordPress software and is hosted with a third-party. The database and files can be transferred, even though it’s a bit complicated. WordPress is open source (OS). (more…)

integrating personal knowledge mastery

I developed the personal knowledge mastery (PKM) framework for myself, beginning in 2004, as a way to make sense of all the digital information flows around me and to connect with others to improve my practice. In 2012 I was contacted by Domino’s Pizza to help incorporate the PKM framework into their leadership training (PDF). Last year Jane Hart and I worked with The Carlsberg Group to add PKM into their Learning Leaders Program.

PKM is applicable to any organization though it takes some effort to develop it for a specific context. An excellent example of this is posted as four articles by the Listening & Spoken Language organization, Hearing First, whom I first met in 2013. Below are some highlights from these posts showing an integrated approach to using PKM for continuous learning.

To learn more, my PKM open workshops are conducted four times per year. If your organization would like to improve workplace learning and knowledge-sharing, then contact me about a private engagement for co-creation as a service. (more…)

meaning and failure

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

“Hire character. Train skill.” — Peter Schutz, former CEO of Porsche via @2080strategyex

“Human beings augmented by other human beings is more important than human beings augmented by technology”@eskokilpi

“Interesting that there is now a whole ‘mindfulness’ industry when all it takes really is to just get out & play/explore.”@DebraWatkinson (more…)

beta conversation 2017-05-18

I will be hosting the next Beta Conversation on Thursday, May 18th at 15:00 UTC [08:00 Pacific, 11:00 Eastern, 16:00 BST, 17:00 CET]. The subject will be understanding the effects of technology. It will focus on examining pervasive and emerging technologies from the perspective of Marshall McLuhan’s media tetrad, as presented here: tetrads for sense-making.

The session will be 90 minutes long. For participant confidentiality, these sessions will not be recorded.

The format of each session is as follows:

  1. Presentation of the key themes by Harold
  2. Discussion of any questions provided by participants in advance
  3. Open discussion

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