As I’ve been writing over the last couple of weeks on the Socially Dynamic Organisation, I’ve been revisiting the 70 or so articles that I’ve written so far exploring this space. The more I write, and the more I think, the clearer it becomes to me that’s the challenge we face is to engineer a new type of organisation that is fundamentally adapted. And that this adaptation will move beyond the vertical pillars and clear formal hierarchy that we see in organisations today. It’s to our credit if we recognise that little of the organisational structure we see around us is set in stone, except the ossified thoughts that lodge in our brains.
The types of organisational structure that we have inherited are based on gradients of power where size, mass, and momentum counted for a lot, and the individual was a small cog in a large machine. In the world of socially moderated storytelling, amplification through social communities, democratised technology, creativity, and communication, this power balance has fundamentally shifted. Our job is to reengineer the organisation of the future to recognise, respect, and jointly leverage value in this new space. Jointly leverage, because the value that is made will be shared, must be shared, between the organisation and the community.
At its simplest level we can look at the culture of the organisation and see how, in the Socially Dynamic Organisation, all of the vertical pillars act in service of, alongside, and with the community itself. I do not illustrate community in the centre because it’s more important, but rather to show how importance has moved into a dynamic relationship between the formal arms of the organisation and the social communities that inhabit it.
I’ve written before about this dynamic tension, and my sense is that it’s key: the formal entities of the organisation must not seek to own or control the social, but equally the social aspects cannot fully subvert or control the formal. The most common challenge I get when talking about the social aspect of the organisation is that it introduces risk, but it’s not possible in compliant or secure environments. People say, “we simply could not do it here”. But that is wrong: People exist in the current space, within compliant and secure environments, they are just disempowered. That judgement is based on the misnomer that if left to their own devices people will do things that are wrong.
In fact, they may do things which are right. They may be able to figure out new ways of being right. Indeed, the power of the Socially Dynamic Organisation comes from its ability to leverage precisely this value.
About the author – Julian Stodd
Julian helps organisations and individuals learn better. He splits his time between research and writing about learning, alongside consultancy and delivering projects out in the real world with his crew at SeaSalt Learning.
Much of his consultancy work is around core elements of the Social Age: the need for Social Leadership, the design of Scaffolded Social Learning, planning for Organisational Change and the impacts of Social Collaborative Technology.
Working with global organisations on strategy and execution, Julian help’s them translate their learning objectives into practically focussed projects that deliver quantifiable changes in knowledge, skills and behaviours.
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