Posts tagged "organization"

March 6, 2012

Worth vs. Work Transforming People and Organizations for The Knowledge Economy

Labour, as its name would suggest, has shouldered its own burden through the ages. Elevating its noblesse or reducing its worth has pitted politicians, social engineers, economists, Marxist theoreticians and capitalists in a titanic ideological struggle that has resulted in labour being commoditised and reduced to the lowest common denominator. Clearly—the dominant western view enjoys a pan global embrace—putting labour, as we once knew and loved it, squarely at the bottom of the Darwinian food chain.

It stands to reason that value or worth inheres in something other than the proverbial “sweat” of our brows. Value now accretes around our ability to build and leverage connectivity and the accumulated  social capital that is measured not in dollars and cents, rather in clicks and likes. Social platforms provide us the ability to form a vast and persistent wake or  train of links to a constituency of people who maintain an ongoing interest in us and provide us with a basis of worth in the emerging economy. The prudent investor seeking to increase his or her “worth”  in this environment, then, would be wise to invest in being highly social and joining the conversation around the water cooler.

There are many, and I would include myself in the many, who stubbornly cling to a sentimental notion of “work” and who view the “Social Thing” as a waste of both time and money (two very familiar friends from the old paradigm of work). This group sees internet use as a form of play at its best and distraction at its worst. We fail to see “traditional” value in it and many of us in law, finance, markets, advertizing, education struggle to wrestle this round peg into the very square hole we created for ourselves over the years.

Walter Ong asserted that the wired generation would enter into what he termed “Secondary Orality” Where being interconnected to the degree that we are forces us to be highly participatory and involved rather than isolated and detached. If you consider traditional organizational schemas pertaining to work, it was mechanistic and hierarchically and linearly structured with each cog doing a very specific job (valued in years of experience and levels of education) performed in relative isolation. It was the age of specialization.

We must then ask, what are the competencies for thriving in this new economy? Learning the Art of Conversation seems to be a crucial one. Connecting and conversing through Facebook, Twitter, Blogs and WIKIs and the like are a good start. Knowledge in this arena seems less proprietary and more of a multi-valent narrative much like going around a campfire circle improvising the lyrics as we move from one camper to the next. For this to work well you need to develop expert listening skills so that you can take what is offered to you, add to it, and pass it on—classic IMPROV theatre techniques that can be gleaned from the works of Sages such as Viola Spolin or Keith Johnstone. A good conversationalist needs to be a generalist so that you can engage with people on their own turf and terms. A good generalist should, naturally, be willing to assume a variety of roles. This ability to switch roles not only confers an adaptive advantage on the individual and the entities that they provide worth to it also helps to build a deep sense of empathy for others in similar situations—especially when you assume new and unfamiliar responsibilities—you understand firsthand what it is like to walk a mile in the novice’s shoes and gain an experience at a grassroots level that older, structured organizational forms cannot  accommodate.

While most organizations recognize the sea changes that are washing over and around us, few have a clear vision of what they need to do in order to engineer a successful transformation that can effectively leverage the emerging paradigms of value. Part of the problem is the inability to wean the organization from traditional rubrics of valuation and organization. Most consider integration as being a scheme aimed at embedding a new technology into an existing structure with the least amount of disruption. The irony is that it is the disruptive aspect of these technologies that should be leveraged NOT mitigated! Often in these circumstances the irritation caused by the “integration” is grudgingly tolerated by decree. The points of contact in the organization are not in alignment with the natural tendencies of the technologies adopted and they often fail or fail to live up to unrealistic expectations.

Few storied organizations are flexible enough in their thinking to consider that a radical restructuring of the org chart is necessary in order to allow these technologies to revolutionize the way they do things. The real innovation, interestingly enough, is in the capacity to consider the sweeping cultural, organizational and economic changes that might be required—the technology simply acts as an accelerant.

I have been working for approximately 8 years on driving cultural change vis-a-vis technology in an applied education context and have encountered the tensions between maintaining the status quo and driving innovation. I can assure you that simply acquiring the latest greatest technology simply does not work without exporing new forms of organization that reflect the inherent tendencies of these technologies and the environments that they help to shape.

I have attached a dossier of illustrated PDFs that detail some aspects of the knowledge and media ecosystem, the competencies and relations between people working in these environments as well as a series of snapshots detailing moves that I have been making away from linear, factory models of organizational efficiency toward models that are more organic, self organizing, agile  and adaptive in order to facilitate RISK-based learning (Rapid Integration of Skills and Knowledge) and effective engagement with emerging technologies and environments.

knowledge_economy_package

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