This is the first of two-posts on the characteristics and habits of smart organizations. In this post, enterprise collaboration and knowledge management expert Gordon Vala-Webb outlines why so many organizations struggle to get smart.
Organizations didn’t always need to be smart.
Their customers and competitors were relatively stable from year to year, and the economy was growing steadily. Organizations could just keep doing what they had always done. Repeatability and the optimization of existing processes were key.
All that has changed.
Whether you are selling in the market or providing public services, that that kind of approach isn’t good enough. Yet most organizations aren’t able to learn and react quickly.
They’re stuck being dumb in a smart world. As Charles Darwin said, “It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent, but the one most adaptable to change.”
According to From Allen Fuqua, CEO of Winstead PC (a large business law firm), there are three critical questions you need to ask of your business leader(s) – in an intimate conversation – in order to drive innovative results:
How do you define success?
What is challenging that success?
What are you putting into place to address those challenges?
That conversation will be difficult – and it ought to be. It will require vulnerability – but its the only way.
To see more: http://youtu.be/p_HW-iQHGZg
Future Think & Innovation: Client Service & Differentiation; LMA LosAngeles.
There is a lovely book entitled Connected : The Surprising Power of Our Social Networks and How They Shape Our Lives by Nicholas A. Christakis and James H. Fowler , PhD.
They distinguish between “organized” networks that you can find (see illustration on right) in bucket brigade, a telephone tree (could also be a hierarchy) and a set of military squads – and open / social networks (below). The number of connects differs depending on the arrangement. For example, in a set of 10 squads of 10 members each the connections would equal 45 per squad (= 450) plus 45 between the squad leaders for a total of 495. All members of the squads are equally close / distant (leaders-to-leaders and member -to-member).
In a open, social network, the number of connections between members is not set – and who you connect with is not set. If you map that network you get something that looks like this (below):
In a telephone tree network the content of the “tree” is based on the message that is given from the centre. Social networks have some unique properties including the fact that they ”
tend to magnify whatever they are seeded with.” Christakis and Fowler go on to say:
Partly for this reason, social networks are creative. And what these networks create does not belong to any one individual—it is shared by all those in the network. In this way, a social network is like a commonly owned forest: we all stand to beneﬁt from it, but we also must work together to ensure it remains healthy and productive. This means that social networks require tending, by individuals, by groups, and by institutions. While social networks are fundamentally and distinctively human, and ubiquitous, they should not be taken for granted.”
I came across this wonderful quote by Philip Slater in his book The Chrysalis Effect:
“In a healthy system, information flows are unimpeded by clots of power or the sclerosis of hierarchy.”
We talk a lot about the use of social networking technologies to improve information (and idea) flows into and around an organization. But “the sclerosis of hierarchy” can restrict those flows drastically.
To make smarter organizations we are going to need smarter leaders who can step outside of the hierarchy to engage and connect with people on a personal basis. In fact social networking technologies are tremendously power for supporting just such conversations.
To learn more, tune in to “Building Smarter Organizations” with Gordon Vala-Webb – part of the KM Webinars at Kent State Series