“It is not the biggest, the brightest, the best that will survive, but those that adapt the quickest.” Charles Darwin
In a few decades there may be only be one major automaker remaining. Can you imagine a world where automakers don’t reign supreme?
We take our current circumstances for granted, but so did carriage makers and chatauqua organisers. I don’t think that there is any doubt that we’re shifting our economic systems and we’re going to need new organisational structures to support how we live and work. But we’re currently in the period of change where second wave (industrial) and third wave (knowledge) economies co-exist and complete with each other.
Indicators of this fundamental economic change are that YouTube is getting bigger than broadcast media, and growing; while Facebook is grabbing everyone’s attention, including advertisers’. Old models, such as paying for information (newspapers, journals, thought-leaders) are declining. At the same time we are overwhelmed with all the information that is now freely available and we soon realise that we don’t have the attention span for most of it.
Many of my clients in traditional and hierarchical organisations are so busy with meetings, travel, commuting and other non-essential tasks that they don’t have time for their real job, which is probably some form of problem-solving. I’m in a non-traditional job (self-employed) and I have time to read dozens of books every year. I don’t spend time commuting and the only meetings I attend are focused on some deliverable. I have off-loaded some non-core tasks, such as accounting, and I have access to more cheap and free productivity tools than I can ever use. My work model is more effective and efficient for the knowledge economy than the industrial structures of most of my clients.
So how can industrial structures change into knowledge networks?
Business performance in a knowledge economy requires learning – all the time. Informal learning practices will have to be integrated into all of our work structures. Things like annotating, filing, reflecting, discussing and testing will be part of everyday work. If you need to be a creative problem-solver (what else is a knowledge worker?) then you’ll have to do the same. A lot of workers aren’t used to this, and those who want to be creative and flexible are often stymied by regulations and work structures. For instance, how many workers in large organisations are allowed to download and test new software applications? Of course their IT department says it’s for their own good that workstations are locked-down. A really effective IT department would ensure that there is a safe way for all workers to be creative with their productivity tools. My IT department does 😉
Part of the transition strategy for any organisation that wants to build third wave resilience into its second wave structure will be the development of informal learning strategies. Trying out personal knowledge management or finding ways to share and be creative on a continual basis will have to become part of the organisation’s DNA. This will be a major re-wiring exercise but the future will belong to the fast learners.
My next posts will focus on specific practices that could actually be implemented in organisations to make them more resilient in a networked knowledge economy. This is important for organisations as well as individuals, who may find themselves being laid-off from an under-performing company. Ross Dawson provides some recent examples:
There are 4,391 media layoffs in the US in first quarter of 2007 are, up 93% on the same period in 2006.
AOL Time Warner sacks 5000 staff.
San Francisco Chronicle announces plans to cut 25% of its newsroom staff.