Social networks disrupt hierarchical structures. Web-based social networks accelerate the spread of new ideas and lay bare organizational flaws. Anyone in a position of power and authority is losing some of that due to the growing power of social networks – doctors, teachers, managers, politicians. Social networks speed access to knowledge and accelerate learning. They allow people to quickly make and change connections. Seb Paquet calls this “ridiculously easy group-forming”.
The hierarchical organizational structure is outdated. Those outside the organization, including employees after work, have more connections and better access to knowledge than inside. Traditionally, companies have been users of human capital, demanding all intellectual property for themselves. But networks can empower individuals, building upon the strengths of each member. The innovators are moving away from companies and into networks already. Today, most new companies are hiring fewer employees and many existing companies are shedding employees at every opportunity. The newly unemployed often realize their professional networks outside the organization are inadequate. The industrial era social contract between capital and labour is broken. Workers are starting to get more professional value from their social networks than from their companies, especially through open knowledge-sharing.
If you are in an organization, you had better prepare for unemployment at some time. Start building your professional social network now. If you are a manager, organize your business like the internet – small pieces, loosely joined. If you own a company, tap into the power of internal and external social networks to learn faster. If you are a public servant, connect to social networks to find out what is really happening, before you become redundant. For instance, Canada Post and the unions did not figure out how to make letter carriers more valuable to their communities. Mail delivery in Canada is ceasing, and their jobs will be gone. I am sure they could have done much more than deliver the mail and would have maintained their relevance if they had been connected to their communities. The union thought in terms of saving jobs, but should have viewed their environment as a value network and created new asset flows.
A job is just a role that cannot change. Hierarchies are just atrophied networks. They have difficulty changing, usually requiring a disruptive and ineffective reorganization. Nodes in social networks can constantly change their roles and connections as the environment evolves. Networks and individuals can change in harmony, but first they need to be connected. Networks are the new companies, it appears.