Network Era Skills

It is only through innovative and contextual methods, the self-selection of the most appropriate tools and work conditions, and willing cooperation, that more productive work can be assured in the network era. The duty of being transparent in our work and sharing our knowledge rests with all workers, including management.

Only people can enable knowledge, trust and credibility to flow within and between markets and companies. Business in the network era is connecting companies to their markets through knowledge workers having conversations in communities and social networks. The core skills for this emerging workplace are: 1) working & learning out loud 2) cooperating, 3) collaborating, and 4) self-organizing.

Working and learning out loud make implicit knowledge more explicit. Creating ‘knowledge artifacts’ that can be shared and built upon by others results in faster organizational learning, and being able to take action on that learning. In an organization, working out loud can take many forms. It could be a regular blog; sharing day-to-day happenings in activity streams; taking pictures and videos; or just having regular discussions. Developing these skills, like adding value to information, takes time and practice. Working out loud also means taking ownership of our learning.

For example, just adding finished reports to a knowledge base does not help others understand how that report was developed. This is where enterprise social networks have helped organizational learning. People can see the flow of sense-making in small bits that over time become patterns. We are very good at pattern recognition, as anyone who has looked up at clouds can attest. Working and learning out loud are the base skills that support the ongoing cooperation required in network era organizations.

Cooperation, giving freely without any expectation of direct benefit, is the new skill for the network era that was not necessary in centrally-controlled organizations. In most workplaces today, collaboration, working together for a common objective, is encouraged and systems have been put in place to support it. While collaboration is important, it is not enough for the complex workplace. Because the relationship between cause and effect can only be seen in hindsight in complex environments, focusing only on collaboration is not a good strategy. Cooperating with the greater network ensures relevance as connections change, new ones become more important, and old ones disappear. The network rewards those who cooperate, by increasing connections, that may some day become important, but no one can know in advance. Collaboration remains an important activity, but usually for short-term, focused projects, within the context of continuously cooperating in knowledge networks. Cooperation ensures long-term relevance for the organization.

Finally, as self-management becomes essential for organizational success, leadership must come from everyone. Self-managing teams in Teal Organizations do not need direction from management. Therefore there are no more specific skills just for for managers, as leadership and management is distributed to everyone in the organization. If these Teal practices, identified by Frederic Laloux, are followed, then leadership is a skill needed by all.

  • Structure: Self-organizing teams.
  • Decision-making: Fully decentralized
  • Purchasing & Investments: Anyone can spend any amount provided advice process is respected.
  • Coordination: No executive team meetings. Coordination and meetings mostly ad hoc when need arises.

In the self-organizing network era organization, everyone will be a contributor. Effective value networks will be diverse and open. Anyone will be able lead in such an organization, if there are willing followers. Those who have consensus to lead will actively listen and help make sense of what is happening. They will be in service to the network, to help keep it resilient through transparency, diversity of ideas, and openness. These servant leaders will help to set the context around complex challenges and will build consensus around emergent practices. Leadership, in most cases, will be temporary and negotiated.

These are core skills for anyone working in a self-organizing, whole, and evolutionary workplace; the optimal organizational structure for the network era.

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2 Responses to “Network Era Skills”

  1. jacky khan

    One mportant factor would appear to have been either ignored…or idealised here…the factor of persona. To ‘naturally allow (servant) leaders and ‘systems’ to (happily) ‘naturally emerge’ does not take into account the reality of the dominant personality. This personality can be over enthusiastic, manipulative..overbearing..intimidating or ‘sneaky’at worst! One does not always see this.(behaviour and methods are not overt) or one is manipulated into supporting/following (false info/lack of awareness of situation..) or the personality can be overbearing (overenthusiastic, driving thru ideals/sarcastic…belittleing ideas) or bullying (denigration of colleagues/hints of ‘consequence) amongst other types of behaviour such as the ‘i ‘ve been doing this for years’ syndrome and more. These are not always apparent..or have been and continue to be ‘indulged’ or are sometimes so downright scary they leave colleagues reluctant to take a stand. Add to this the ‘wont be me to make a fuss..i must be the only one feeling this..theyll think im being petty/childish/rude/weak dilemma and you have an unbalanced and unparticipatory grouping. A ‘leader’ or ‘boss’ that is ‘appointed’ can still encourage /’allow’ free thinking..and yet keep such behaviours to a minimum allowing other voices to be heard. Certainly initially the dominant -but not always ‘best’ member needs to be kept in check in order for other ‘better’ leaders to emerge…sometimes this will take a long or short time, but will happen. Sometimes its always going to be needed. Yet to ‘dismiss’ the antagonist is not possible because altho their leadership suitability is questionable…their contribution in other areas is valuable. It may simply be a case of ‘he who shouts loudest…shouldnt be allowed to shout at all ????(-; xx

    • Harold

      I am not talking about leaders or bosses who are appointed, but those who are allowed to lead with the consent of others. Many of the concerns you note are a result of management being embedded in the hierarchy and given power and control over others. Take this away, and self-organized teams can emerge. There are many examples of this in Laloux’s book. The factor of persona’s is not ignored, it is overcome by creating structures that have checks and balances against sociopathic tendencies. The Teal organizational model is one of the few I have seen in practice that can overcome this tendency.


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