Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Towards a collaborative society

The media, of late, is filled with acclamations and superlative references to Social Media and the Internet. Naturally there is human interest in the way that people are interacting, the rate at which these Social Media sites and tools are growing. There is also commercial interest in the advertising potential, or some as yet undiscovered business model - lurking, magically, below the surface.

I admit that I share the enthusiasm, but I have a what is perhaps a slightly different view on the process that society is going through. I view the current development of Social Media and more recently mobile Social Media as progression towards a "collaborative society". This is a movement which started with the telegraph and perhaps before - with the desire to communicate, to know in advance, to transverse the limitations of human travel and communication. Later our parents and grandparents used the telephone and the radio to communicate and gather news. Then came the TV which added the missing visuals. CNN took this media to new heights by showing us in real-time what was happening in our world. The Internet then added the collaborative element, allowing us to comment, help, assist, co-operate and collaborate. Mobile technology has now developed to the point where we can take that to the next level, contributing on the move, in real-time with the addition of location information.

Not only was there a desire to communicate and "know", there was also a desire not to be confined by the ever increasing regulation of our society. This phenomena seems to be cyclical, regulation builds and builds, becoming overbearing before being replaced by a new system. However, the overall trend is for ever-increasing regulation. Society has reacted against this - although perhaps not consciously. Informal enterprise is on the increase globally - even in developed countries and the Internet has become a medium where the rules, especially those of geographic boundary do not exist to the same rigidity. Facebook, Twitter and the like - while fantastic in taking the opportunity to utilise new developments in technology - are merely progressions in far bigger, older process.

This process, I feel will very quickly make our current social systems, of governance for one, out-of-date. As a society will will no longer be dependent on a single authoritative administration to look after our interests fully without question. There is no reason why we cannot move to a much more representative system, where the many in a society contribute a little to make the whole. In some ways this is already happening, bloggers are reporting on the real events in crisis areas, open-source developers are making fantastic tools that surpass that of the large corporations. A company like Google has realised this, which is why they have become dominant in the last 10 years. This trend will continue, as it fuels the human desire to be connected, to be part of a community, to be acknowledged - to collaborate.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Adopting that which does not work

Ever sat eating a sandwich on the banks of the Rhine - in the freezing cold - wondering why organizations are structured in the way they are ? Why for example do organizations continue to believe that adding head-count increases productivity ? When the team gets too big, simply split it into two or three and add more staff (which, supposedly does not violate any rules - The Mythical Man Month). This thinking is quite obviously wrong, yet it prevails in most large organizations.
Why are organizations (for the most part) structured in some sort of arcane hierarchy, is this due to functional or productive necessity or just pure laziness - not exploring more innovative ways to organize. Of course there are considerations, labour laws, social order and the pecking order necessitate the gradual progression through an organization. It is easy to see how and why the hierarchy is needed and created, but, how do we rid ourselves of it ?
Maybe it is just because it is what we are all used too, or the way it has always been. There must be some reasoning behind it right ?Why are we all judged by our titles (not helped by LinkedIn) and not by a measure of what we actually have done. We could all have a number on our lockers, instead of a title ? Maybe those school systems of coloured stars would work ?

I am not suggesting that everything in the current system of organization is inadequate or incorrect, however, I do feel there is room to explore new forms, which we may have overlooked or are now possible due to technology and the professionalism of management. Many of the systems we use to organize our daily lives and our corporations cannot be thought to be the best or optimum. In our organizations, we should stop implementing structural organizational things in "known" ways, because "that's how it is done", we should think a little more.

By the way, the Rhine is very beautiful. Germany has many very talented people and equally many not so talented ... as you would expect.