Summary: ‘Companies must evolve from being knowledge organizations to developing organizations’ – that’s the quote of an industry representative that tickled my brain while I was moderating a world cafe session last week. I want to go even further: they have to become continuously evolving organizations. ‘Life long learning’ is one of the principles that is put on individuals and that’s kept like some kind of mantra by some. I believe that the real power lies in life long learning and evolving companies – whereof individuals are an essential part. Enterprise 2.0 mechanics can help organizations to lay the foundation for that kind of development.
Combining multiple perspectives.
At the same event an academia representative mentioned their endeavor to connect students from multiple disciplines to project groups. They have to work on a joint challenge as part of their studies. I wish I would have had the opportunity to study under such forward thinking professors because in work life the really game changing ideas, concepts and solutions come from combining multiple perspectives (= multiple disciplines).
In the future it will be less about the knowledge a single individual. It will be more about the intelligence of an individual to combine the own intellectual capabilities with ones of others and global knowledge that becomes more and more accessible.
You don’t have to know everything, You have to know where to look for it.
In particular our fast paced and more and more scattered way of working requires exactly that: the combination of all available (intellectual) assets to solve problems efficiently and effectively. The increasing complexity of challenges and influencing factors is adding to this requirement. I keep quoting G. Wohland’s: Companies tend to ask themselves the wrong question. If you’re facing a situation that hits you by surprise you shouldn’t ask what to do now because you cannot not what to do. I wouldn’t be a surprise if you would be aware of options. You should ask yourself who would be the right person to deal with the subject. (Another reference to Wohland’s thinking can be found here http://goo.gl/cM9f7)
It’s not about proprietary knowledge – and I am thereby not(!) implying that the actually abilities, skills and knowledge of a person aren’t important anymore. It’s about the ability to COMBINE proprietary and complementary skills to a powerful tool for solving challenges.
Awareness of limits and ability to find complementing skills is key.
The awareness – and in particular the acceptance – of (individual) limits however, is a cultural thing. Corporations must create an environment in which individuals are able to expose weakness in certain areas and actively ask for help. Flip side of the coin is: ‘the others’ have to have the flexibility and autonomy to offer and apply their help whenever needed. Again: this should not imply that the sole existence of employees will be built on "sit and wait for a challenge to come by" but the fact that a certain fraction of the personal time can be applied to non-core-role stuff…to helping others (I call this a "we help each other" culture).
The ability is something that can be supported and even empowered by enterprise 2.0 mechanisms and thereby IT. Based on my understanding of the subject the following "user stories" can definitely be "ticked off".
- Make my skills and expertise visible to others (be findable…distributing content to an undefined group of recipients)
- Have access to skills and expertise available in the organization (receiving specific, relevant and available content)
- Refine information and determine the "best fit" (filtering of large information volumes)
- Relevant profiles should be matched to challenges I am working on (people who have worked on similar challenges have used these experts…)
A social and commercial(!) media inspired workspace can be the enabler for a new way of working…the combination of the real experts to solve challenges quickly, focussed and successfully.
The evolving organization.
The more challenges are solved through the new way of working, the more networks will be established and the more information/data will be put into context. Key improvements would be
- Re-inventing the wheel will be happen on fewer occasions.
- Wasting time with something that isn’t core skill will be eliminated. It will be the experts that solve a challenge in shorter time.
- Working in x-skill and x-expertise projects or "temporary solution swarms" will increase individual skills (training on the job).
- The corporate DNA (what we know, what we have done) will be documented and made transparent and available.
The role of management in the evolving organization will of course change. Managers will turn into coaches and guides within the network of opportunities and they will have the role to support individuals in balancing own (core) work with the work in temporary swarms (real collaboration).