Challenging the status quo

Euan Semple’s fantasy:

A business where everyone blogs. Everyone thinks about what they are doing and writes about what they are doing. From the top to the bottom, the edges to the middle. Everyone awake and bouncing off each other intellectually as they get more and more effective at whatever they do.

This sounds like the six of us at the Internet Time Alliance and with all of this free thinking, we have a tendency to question the status quo.

Speaking of status quo, Thierry de Baillon has an interesting perspective on the hidden power of renegade networks:

While one of social software’s goal is to harness freeform communication to facilitate knowledge sharing, this kind of tacit knowledge, mostly learned by doing or exchanged nearly in secret between peers, is quite never shared. In a short exchange with Harold Jarche in the Social Learning Community created by Jane Hart (you should join it if you haven’t yet and are interested in the use of social media for working and learning ), I called it Renegade Knowledge, as it clearly subverts organizational behavior. Paradoxically, it is also the kind of knowledge which makes up for processes and procedures shortcoming and helps things keeping running.

Sumeet Moghe shows how questioning the status quo can be part of organizational culture:

At ThoughtWorks, no question is taboo. A company that started from our founder, Roy Singham’s basement, people seem to feel comfortable questioning just about anything in the company. When I joined the company I was quite surprised to see what I thought was the apparent lack of regard for authority in this organisation. People seemed to have no fear questioning the chairman, the CEO or anyone else in the company. It seemed that no ‘best practice’ escaped the “Why?”question. What I thought of as a sign of disrespect in those days, is really a culture of healthy disruption. A big smell in organisational cultures, is when people follow an individual or a practice blindly. A culture of questioning is a great way to drive conversation and helps establish the relevance of a view or a practice in a specific context. In person, or online, these discussions seem to build up like magic. I must say this starts right from the leadership, who encourage questioning. I’ve rarely seen anyone who feels offended because someone questioned their wisdom.

The status quo is rooted in the past and can provide much-needed stability, but we need to balance this stability with ways to innovate in changing and complex situations. This is the great organizational challenge for most companies. A culture that promotes transparency through the narration of work (e.g. blogging) is a pragmatic way to deal with this.

Blogging, or any other form of narration, lets you create, contextualize, connect and co-create in many ways. As one moves from content creation to contextualization (through grouping, tagging or rating), the potential network effects increase. This gets greater as people connect to the artifacts (through comments, linking or discussion) and then to co-creation, such as mashups or remixes. The basic idea is that as more people manipulate digital objects and give them meaning and context then these objects gain in value.

Narration drives transparency and with transparency come exponential network effects. It’s simple to explain but rather difficult to achieve in hierarchical structures. With ubiquitous connectivity & pervasive proximity, I’m betting the status quo will change.



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