The following is my foreword to Oscar Berg’s ’ Collaborating in A Social Era’. The piece was inspired by the themes of the book, particularly on how organisations need to better use information. It was an honour to be able to contribute a few words to Oscar’s great work.
Dumb by Choice
Traditional hierarchical organizations are designed to make us dumb. These organizations work to deliver the predictable execution of a stable, proven business model. We have designed these organizations to exclude information from decision-making and isolate employees to focus on efficiency, predictability, and control. Without better ways of distributing and filtering information, we chose to create the many layers of management, channels of communication, and decision making processes. Each of these familiar elements of organizations limit the information we use and the way we work. The consequence was an improvement in efficiency, but limited adaptability to exceptions, challenges, and change. Our employees and our customers feel the costs of these limits. We have created organizations that treat people, whether customers or employees, as a cog in the machine of value-creation.
In the last century, with the opportunities presented by expanding global consumer markets, our dumbness, loss of human potential, and inflexibility were small prices to pay. There were real financial barriers to better use of information. The lost opportunities were overwhelmed by the ever-growing market opportunity. Most organizations used the same operating model and faced the same economics of information, so the threat of disruptive competition was muted.
As Oscar Berg highlights in this book, the competitive marketplace for organizations has now fundamentally changed. Information networks and digital capabilities have reduced the cost of creating and sharing information and expanded the access to information of businesses, consumers, and communities. Increasingly, organizations are dealing with knowledge work and complex situations. The cost of a dumb process and the missed human potential is rising. Organizations can see competitors better leveraging the potential of their people to learn, to adapt, and to collaborate.
The challenge for managers and for employees in this new world, is how to change our ways of working and how we create, share and make use of information. We need our organizations to make us smarter. We need our organizations to help us to learn and to realize our collective potential. This book sets out to equip us all with some key tools to begin this redesign of the way we work.
Work has always involved people coming together to achieve more than one individual can do on their own. The most effective organizations enhance the knowledge, capabilities, and potential of their employees. Changing our ways of working to better use information and foster new forms of collaboration is a critical design element to the future of work. Rather than being passive participants in a process, employees can become a crucial element in the way our organization gathers, shares, and creates value from information.
In this book, you will find a number of key concepts and tools that will help your organization to realize the opportunities and the value offered by new models of social collaboration. Change is not easy. New capabilities will need to be learned and practiced. New mindsets will be required to foster effective communication. Ultimately, teams will need to mature their practice to work in increasingly valuable and visible ways. This book highlights these concepts, provides examples of the new approaches, and supports each of us to put them into practical use.
If we want to work in smarter ways and to see our organizations prosper, leadership is required. These changes to established ways of working won’t happen on their own. We can’t rely on technology to change established practice in our work communities. We will need change agents and leaders to take on the role of building new capabilities, advocating for new mindsets, and role modeling new practice. Adaptive leaders, collaborating in and beyond their organizations, will change established practice and help organizations experiment with the potential of new ways of working.
Take up the challenge of this book and experiment with new ways of collaborating in your organization. You have the opportunity to be well equipped to begin leading the change and making your organization smarter and more effective. Most of all, you will be contributing to making the future of work that much smarter and more human.
To order the book in a variety of formats see Oscar’s launch announcement today