Ross Mayfield writes about Thomas Malone’s recent talk on collaborative technologies. This talk is quite similar to the IT conversation talk that I heard from IT Conversations, a few months back. Excerpts with edits and comments:
We are in the early stages of an increase in human freedom in business, an important a change in business as the change of democracy for governments. The reason is it is now possible to have the economic benefits for very large organizations and at the same time have the human benefits of very small organizations: freedom flexibility and creativity. Lower communication costs mean many people have enough information to make decisions for themselves. what drives these changes is what people want. People use their freedom to get more of what they want. Example: Wikipedia. The big picture vision is a world where everyone in the world is given access to the world's knowledge. This motivates people. The second reason is it is a lot of fun. Nupedia was too much work and not much fun. This story illustrates human freedom (anyone can be an editor and make any change) coupled with global scale (drawing upon a global pool of experts with results made globally available). Second example: eBay. Again, the combination of freedom and scale. Creating the right infrastructure and community has let the eBay community generate significant value for themselves and the community.
Thomas Malone predicts, this will become more common as this is the next logical step in the common pattern in the evolution of human organizations. Societies organized first as Bands (Decentralized, Unconnected), then Kingdoms (Centralized), then Democracies (Decentralized, Connected). communication costs is the most explanatory factor. This same pattern is repeating itself now, on a faster time scale, in business. From Small, local businesses to Large, centralized corporations to Empowerment, Outsourcing and Networked organizations. In our increasingly knowledge based an innovation driven economy, the critical factors for business success are the same benefits of decentralized decision making. (*decentralization enables economies of span and scope which provides a sustainable innovative edge*)
All this means a new management style - From "command and control" to "coordinate and cultivate." *Paradox of standards: sometimes rigid standards in one part of the organization can enable much more flexibility and decentralization in other parts of the system.* For example, the internet and IP protocol. In a business, if you can figure out the right area to apply standards (quality, financial controls, etc.) and give people lots more freedom in other areas, you can be more confident about the effects. *Paradox of power: the best way to gain power is to give it away. Some of the most important innovations in the coming decades will not be new technologies. They'll be be new ways of originating work that are made possible by these new technologies. What matters in business is what you do with IT. Another level in the technology stack that is an organizational layer. One of the most imporant messages of the talk is there will be innovations in the technology layers, some of the most important will be at the organizational layer.
Category : Future Of Work