The new nature of the firm

Read/Write Web has taken up the call of Enterprise 2.0 with a new channel on the subject and starts by examining the nature of the firm, how large corporations have amassed huge wealth and control over the past 50 years and the factors contributing to a potential change in this situation:

  • Demographics: Retiring baby boomers and Generation Y’s network-savvy approach to work
  • Technology: How networks subvert hierarchy and force companies to focus on their core business.

The conclusion is that there are opportunities a-plenty.

That is huge opportunity for a lot of start-ups. There has never been a better time to be an entrepreneur. It also a huge challenge for the incumbents. Big companies need to re-define themselves in fundamental ways to find new ways to be big in a meaningful way.

The next post on R/WW is about the specifics of running an enterprise 2.0. It’s nuts and bolts kind of stuff. What is missing here so far, and I know that this is a new channel, is the foundation of enterprise 2.0.

I’ve mentioned this before about work literacy. We need a unifying principle for post-industrial work. Wirearchy is still, in my mind, that principle, as it includes the role of technology but is focused on how we interact in this workplace:

a dynamic two-way flow of power and authority based on information, knowledge, trust and credibility, enabled by interconnected people and technology

For enterprise 2.0 to work, it needs to embrace democracy in the workplace, something that rarely exists in industrial, command and control, organisations – which account for almost all of our businesses. Businesses run as monarchies or oligarchies but very few operate as democracies. We are so accustomed to this structure that most business people would say that it is impossible to run a business as a democracy. We know they are wrong and that there are democratic business models that work today.

I think that enterprise 2.0 will not fulfill its potential unless its foundation is more than just web technologies or networked businesses. We need to integrate this democratic organising principle into our discussions on enterprise 2.0 and I am sure that many captains of industry will loudly disagree. Without an architectural organising principle, the enterprise 2.0 ship will not sail very far.

Photo by S_K_S

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