Embrace chaos

When I discussed Emergent Value, some very good comments ensued, from Jon Husband, Gordon Ross, Peg Boyles, Ollie Gardener and Monika Hardy. This image was my first attempt to show how real value creation happens at the edge of organizations and requires different management and communications practices. Social networks, collaboration and cooperation must be the norm when dealing with complex or chaotic situations.

Jon Husband commented on my post with a suggested wirearchy framework for implementation:

– Identify a purpose (this is what may or will be emerging in chaotic activities)
– Identify and enroll the skills, motivations and personalities necessary to address the purpose in a constructive and/or creation-of-value way (typically, within one or more social networks).
– Identify and create the infrastructure for effective and constructive communication and collaboration (the web services and social tools that are increasingly commonplace and free or inexpensive)
– Open the infrastructure to the “crowd of interest” on the web (unless it is a commercial endeavour on the part of a now-grouping of people, as in a consulting group that emerges from peoples’ interactions) .. it can be participative social media marketing on the part of companies, or advocacy and activist dynamics on the part of not-for-profits
– Create practical metrics that a group or network actually understand and believe in, and refine as the networked wirearchy grows, sustains or wanes.
– Refine, adjust, adapt (it’s critical to ensure social ‘hygiene’ and seek, then instill ways of building and sustaining trust)

Start with Purpose > People > Platform then open it up to Network > Metrics > Community.

Ollie Gardener noted that, “The wirearchy of connections need to form not just to meet the collective needs/goals, but to support people’s independent work both within and across company boundaries (the work that we do in parallel).” This is high-value work/learning on the edge, where life is complex and chaotic. It’s from the periphery of a network, where it is less homogenous, that we get diversity and innovation. This is where individuals and organizations have to go to continue learning and developing.

As Seely Brown, Hagel and Davison noted two years ago in How to Bring the Core to the Edge:

In today’s fast-moving, chaotic world, edges are beginning to take on greater meaning. Not only in their ability to help us recognize new ideas but, perhaps more importantly, in the power they give us to escape the old ones.

I think the edge will be where almost all high value work gets done in organizations. Core activities will be increasingly automated or outsourced. Most of the people in an organization will be on the edge. The core will be managed by very few internal staff. This is a sea change, in my opinion. It means that change and complexity will be the norm in our work. We already see this with increasing numbers of freelancers and contractors. Any work where complexity is not the norm will be of diminishing value.

We need to embrace complexity and chaos, it’s where the future of work lies.

7 Responses to “Embrace chaos”

  1. Lori

    Hi Harold,
    I like your thoughts. From my perspective, self-organizing groups help us as individuals embrace complexity and chaos–for some of us to the point that we recognize our selves as these groups, everyone in our organization does “edge” work, and the world begins to slow back down and feel simpler.



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