Organization 2.0 is organism 2.0


Today was the first public gettogether of Yritys 2.0 (enterprise 2.0) book project. About 20 people showed up. I had the honor to provide a presentation and lead a conversation on knowledge, learning and innovation in organizations. The session was recorded and video will be available later.

The reportage (in finnish) is here, kudos to Mari Koo for blogging about it.

My slides are here.

The event was held in evening at a bar (Luft), was open for anyone to join and was marketed mainly through Jaiku, some blogs and few other digital mediums. The resulting crowd was guaranteed to be interested in the topic. My typical presentation is 30 minutes, but this one lasted for 1 hour 20 minutes as a result of lively conversation in between slides. I think the result was fairly interactive, although some participants thought the setting was still a bit too structured to be fully 2.0. Old habits die hard.

The illustration that got most attention is below, describing how different tools play part in the anatomy of an Organization gone 2.0 (click the picture for a full image). I often use it to describe why I created Dicole Knowledge Work Environment and how the different tools play together. This provides a framework for understanding the relationships between different social technologies within an organization:

070912 Yritys20.018 Organization 2.0 is organism 2.0

The underlying theory here is based on David Kolb’s and Donald Schön’s theories on the importance of reflective practice in learning among others (like transactive memory by Daniel Wegner). The background theory behind an analogy is important, if we want to create organizations capable of learning, innovation and change.

Skeleton

In order for an organization to function, it needs a skeleton consisting of automated real-time processes. Operative technologies are designed to run certain tasks or parts of business processes to remove friction from organizational functions. The results can be seen in systems like shared calendars, ERPs, bug repositories, CRMs and other operative systems designed for managing certain business processes. Janne Korhonen has a lot of useful ideas to say about business process managment.

Senses

Nowadays an organization needs to work outside-in rather than inside-out to align the business with markets. You need a way to sense what’s going on outside of your immediate vicinity. As an organization your ability to turn information and weak signals into actionable knowledge is directly proportional to the ability of your employees to make sense what’s going on. Various tools provide a place for reflection in and on action. You need some kind of tools to draw ideas into your organization from the fringes. Tools like blogs, microblogs, presence tools, social bookmarking etc. provide new ways to create meaningful stories that are relevant to your organization.

Nervous system

Now that you have something to sense about, you also need to get the signals flowing inside your organization. You need digital tools that connect various resources, services and information together and enable personalization on individual basis. RSS feeds, various search functions and interfaces like APIs provide means for turning on the nervous system of your organization. Each department, individual, project etc. needs to have some access point for others to tap into.

Brain

Now that you have a fully functioning network signaling ideas from the trenches, you need a way to sort out the meaningful stuff, remix various resources and crystallize new ideas. Tools like wikis, tagging, data mining, qualitative analysis etc. provide a rich collective breeding ground for a fully working organizational brain. It should be based on an associative network structure, rather than a hierarchical tree structure. Just like the human brain, your organization has information that is evolving all the time. Ideas are connecting and blending with new information, the network structure gets denser in certain parts over time and weakens in others. Your organizational memory is the primary place for synthesizing reflections.

Blood system

A fully working body is useless without a life force. That’s why you need to get the blood flowing and making sure that your organization is not getting any heart attacks or blood clots. This is obviously based on human interaction and making sure that the conversation is flowing all the time in various different ways. You can optimize the interaction flow by utilizing social networking tools and real-time communications. This includes semi-synchronic (e.g. chat) and synchronic communication tools (e.g. instant messaging and virtual conferencing). You can use social network analysis tools to discover and fix architectural problems in your human network.

Muscles

One thing that was left out is muscles. Ilkka Kakko noted that muscles in an organization is money. Small companies may have small muscles and be very agile and fast moving. Large enterprises have huge muscles but are slow and cumbersome. Another analogy that works here could be fuel for the body, like food or water. You obviously need some way to address this resource allocation issue.

Conclusion

The discussion bursted out into a conversation on motivation and reason for various people to take part in online communities, sometimes producing value for very different motivators than money. I noted that in the commons people contribute resources as long as they get more value out of the commons than what they put in. As an example, you upload videos to Youtube for free, because it enables you to discover other great videos, have a free storage for your videos and save time in converting the videos in a format that someone else can watch easily. Monetization is enabled by the service provider through indirect channels.

Juhani Anttila noted, that if something is wrong with the picture, it’s the title about organization.This kind of system is more like an organism that has self-organizing capabilities, rather than being a remotely controlled robot. Before an organism you have an orgasm. After an organism you have death. All organizations have different life cycles. Some are eaten alive by predators, some are killed in competition and some will die for getting too old.

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