Networked individuals trump organizations

2005 was the year when more than 50% of US workers’ occupations involved non-routine cognitive work, that long-awaited milestone. Stowe Boyd

jobs and work“Work has become distributed, discontinuous, and decentralized, hence, 3D”, says Stowe. As hyperlinks subvert hierarchy, so does work fragmentation subvert organizations. Given the nature of 3D work, it may be possible that we are witnessing the end of the corporation as a wealth-generation machine, just as its current power seems to have no limits.

In knowledge-based work the primary unit of value creation has shifted from the organization to the individual. Work is modularized and distributed globally across algorithms and human work.Ross Dawson

Stowe Boyd calls this the rise of the emergent business. We can look at this change from the perspective of knowledge networks, in which most of us will be working, whether we are farmers or software engineers. A knowledge network in balance is founded on openness which enables transparency. This in turn fosters a diversity of ideas, and promotes innovative thinking. The emergent property of all of these exchanges is trust.

In an economy based on trusted knowledge networks of individuals, the role of the organization may revert to merely a supporting one. We might even see corporations bidding for the privilege of supporting knowledge networks. This is quite the opposite from today, where someone recently stated on a forum that 95% of companies are not in the top 5%, yet they all demand the top 5% of talent. Perhaps in the future companies will have to fight for talent.

open societiesAs more people work in distributed networks they may realize how little they have to gain from organizations. If autonomy, mastery, and a sense of purpose motivate people to work, as Dan Pink says, then networks are a much better vehicle for rewarding work than organizations can ever be. It’s the difference between intrinsic and extrinsic motivation. While the industrial era, based on the principles of scientific management, used extrinsic rewards, the network era requires personal motivation. Organizations, driven by external and formal direction, cannot compete with self-motivated and connected workers in the network era.

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