More of us are working in a networked economy, driven by the enormous, ubiquitous Internet. Working in a network appears to be most effective for chaotic and complex environments, where the Cynefin model prescribes:
- Complex, in which the relationship between cause and effect can only be perceived in retrospect, but not in advance, the approach is to Probe – Sense – Respond and we can sense emergent practice.
- Chaotic, in which there is no relationship between cause and effect at systems level, the approach is to Act – Sense – Respond and we can discover novel practice.
Being outside the corporate/bureaucratic hierarchy I see how easy it is for networks to form and act-sense-respond on perceived opportunities and challenges, especially when there is trust between the nodes. But organisations, no matter how modern, are not networks. They are constrained by rules, governance, proprietary secrets and other control systems. Can “slow nodes” work effectively in a fast moving edge economy?
Searls and Weinberger called the Web a World of Ends, with no centre at all:
When Craig Burton describes the Net’s stupid architecture as a hollow sphere comprised entirely of ends3, he’s painting a picture that gets at what’s most remarkable about the Internet’s architecture: Take the value out of the center and you enable an insane flowering of value among the connected end points. Because, of course, when every end is connected, each to each and each to all, the ends aren’t endpoints at all.
So the question is, what happens to an organisation that tries to emulate the most efficient network we have and becomes completely hollowed out?
Is it still an organisation?
Do the rules remain the same?
Do those on the edge need the middle any more?
The challenge that I see is to create the new organisational model for an edge economy. We have wirearchy as one governing principle and efforts like work literacy for individuals, but no new organisational models for groups that create value.
McLuhan’s laws of media could provide some insight. Possible effects of a world of ends on the industrial organisational model:
- Extends the influence of each worker.
- Obsolesces control systems.
- Retrieves personal relationships.
- Could flip into personality cults.
Over the past century we have played with other models (cooperatives, partnerships, sole proprietorships) but the incorporated company is still dominant. Henry Ford took advantage of F.W. Taylor’s new management theories and created a new world of work. Will we be seeing something similar in the next decade?
This is one of the greatest opportunities around but innovations on the old model still get all the press. Other than some tweaking of the existing corporate model, is anyone seeing anything really new happening? It will likely be outside of the “developed” world.