The industrial model broke down work into its simplest elements and linked it together in complex processes. The knowledge component was removed from workers and reserved for management, while workers were provided with just enough knowledge to “do their job”…..
Breaking down that model and restoring the knowledge creation and sharing function to all employees requires executive commitment to reexamine business processes, HR policies, and IT infrastructure.
The Internet isn’t really a technology. It’s a belief system, a philosophy about the effectiveness of decentralized, bottom-up innovation. And it’s a philosophy that has begun to change how we think about creativity itself.
The ethos of the Internet is that everyone should have the freedom to connect, to innovate, to program, without asking permission. No one can know the whole of the network, and by design it cannot be centrally controlled. This network was intended to be decentralized, its assets widely distributed. Today most innovation springs from small groups at its “edges.”
A manager recently voiced his concerns: “Most employees prefer being told what to do. They are willing to accept being treated like children in exchange for reduced stress. They are also willing to obey authority in exchange for job security.” That is the way we have seen it: managers inspire, motivate and control employees who need to be inspired, motivated and controlled. These dynamics create the system of management and justify its continuation.
If we want to meet the challenges of the post-industrial world, this relationship needs to change. The workers changing their role are often seen as a matter of the extent to which the managers are willing to allow it and give up responsibility. In reality it is as much a matter of how much the workers are willing to grow their (management) capacity and take more and wider responsibility.
Working in a world of extended collaboration asks individuals to contribute through a different and, in many ways, more complex set of activities. Workers must deal with rich content that flows through infinite links. Individuals must make intelligent, well-informed decisions about what to share with whom (and what not to) with less guidance from the hierarchy to simplify the patterns of interaction. And they must dig deep within themselves to form innovative ideas and put their best thinking forward.
To a large extent, the conduct of these activities is not something managers can prescribe or even monitor. Unlike process-based work, in which the goal is to perform synchronized tasks consistently and reliably, extended collaboration occurs asynchronously and is often aimed at discovering or developing something new. Rather than requiring everyone to be in the same place at the same time, extended collaboration can occur virtually. In process-based work, quality can be assured through in-process inspection and performance judged on conformity to process specifications, while the quality of collaborative work can typically be assessed only by the results achieved.