Networks and complexity

Jane Hart alerted me to this cartoon, which is already being spread throughout the Net.

My first thoughts on reading this, after I laughed, are that social media are not about the latest web technologies and that they are of importance to more than just the marketing department. A cultural change is required in the way we organize our work because of two related factors: Networks & Complexity.

Wirearchy may be a neologism, but I’ve found it to be a most descriptive term for discussing what happens when you connect everyone via electronic networks. To paraphrase Jon Husband:

It is generally accepted that we live and work in an increasingly ‘wired’ world.

There are emerging patterns and dynamics related to interconnected people and interlinked information flows, which are bypassing established traditional structures and services.

The cynefin model shows that emergent practices are needed in order to manage in complex environments and novel practices are necessary for chaotic ones. Most of what we consider standard work today is being outsourced and automated. We are facing more complexity and chaos in our work because of our interconnectedness.

Living and working in non-hierarchical networks is our challenge this century. The effective use of social media, to learn from and with others, is essential for individuals and organizations to be productive in this networked age. That is why social learning is of great interest to me as a workplace learning professional and I’ve come to the realization that work is learning and learning is the workSocial learning is getting things done in networks.

There is little doubt that industrial management and all that it has created (chain of command, human resources, line & staff, production, etc.) are the wrong models for the emerging, networked workplace. This is a workplace with increasing numbers of free-agents and permanent employees who don’t have a job for life, especially as the average lifespan of corporations decreases while those of workers increases. Many workers, including white collar ones, can’t afford to retire. Existing management models and support functions were developed to keep things stable and ensure that people conformed to corporate culture. There is much less time to do that as workplace culture evolves with society, markets and technology.

Mark Federman called this world, ubiquitously connected and pervasively proximate, and that was five years ago.

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