books in perpetual beta

Finding Perpetual Beta is now in production. This new ebook is part of the continuing journey to understand how individuals and organizations can manage fundamental changes in networked society, business, and education. It is a series of reflections on the themes presented in Seeking Perpetual Beta, published in April 2014. It questions the status quo of how organizations are structured in order to get work done. In addition, there is an expanded Part 2 on personal knowledge mastery (PKM), a foundational discipline for working in the network era and a creative economy.

Here are some highlights, covering the main themes in Part 1: The Network Era.

mazeToday, knowledge-based work is replacing manufacturing and information processing jobs. Robots and software are displacing routine work. Meanwhile, collaborative work is dominating both transactional and production work. The future of valued, human work is in collaboratively addressing complex problems and coming up with creative solutions.

Automation is ending the industrial era. Examples include lawyers replaced by software, bank staff replaced by websites, travel agents replaced by apps, and soon drivers will be replaced by robots. Workplaces are finding themselves at a break-point between the industrial era and the network era, with industrial era systems and structures unable to adapt to a world of mostly non-standardized, non-repeatable work processes.

A new model for work is required. Hierarchies, simple branching networks, are obsolete. They work well when information flows mostly in one direction: down. Hierarchies are good for command and control. They are handy to get things done in small groups. But hierarchies are rather useless to create, innovate, or change.

We are at the beginning of a management revolution, similar to the one that created modern business schools and their scientific methods. There are many examples today of companies testing out new management models such as the social enterprise, democracy in the workplace, self-organizing work teams, and networked free-agents. While there are no clear answers, it is fairly certain that standing still will lead to failure. Giving up control is the great challenge for management.

Another challenge for organizations is getting people to realize that what they know has diminishing value. How to solve problems together is becoming the real business imperative. Sharing and using knowledge is where business value lies. With computer systems that can handle more and more of our known knowledge, the network era worker has to move to the complex and chaotic edge of the organization to do the valued work of exception handling.

We are seeing growing complexity both inside and outside the enterprise. In this complex and connected world we cannot predict outcomes, but we can engage our environments and markets and then learn by doing. This makes constant learning a critical business skill. It requires do-it-yourself learning as well as social learning skills.

A networked enterprise needs to be organized more like the Internet, and less like a tightly controlled machine. While hierarchies are practical to get work done, they should not be the overarching structure for the organization. There is still a need for responsibility and accountability, but authority has to be distributed to deal with complex problems.

Part 2: Personal Knowledge Mastery:

  • The Seek > Sense > Share Framework
  • PKM Tips
  • PKM and the Future of Work

I am starting to plan for the third ebook in this series. My intention is that it will be based on a series of interviews to understand what people are doing differently this past decade, such as working in non-hierarchical organizations, or how they are practicing some form of PKM. Interest in these themes is growing. For example, students in a US education doctoral program will be using these ebooks for one of their modules. A community of practice of Canadian training managers will also incorporate these books into their 2015 professional discussions. Many people are seeking, and hopefully finding, perpetual Beta.

2 Responses to “books in perpetual beta”

  1. Niels Pflaeging

    I love the book Finding Perpetual Beta: It is more of a thoughtful treatise than a how-to manual. Readers will find it delivers sharp insights and a large amount of pristine mental models.


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