Tuesday, May 29, 2012

The Future of Organization


Today, I want to give enough of an overview of the system, process and strategy so as we can each better understand how to engage ourselves in the process, and then use that engagement in our own directives.

What Is This "Organization of the Future"??

The OofF is a working title for what is a broad based philosophy, system, process and strategy for understanding, adapting and leading the way at the individual or organizational level for the challenges and opportunities the near and long term future brings.
As such, it is heavily based on living systems and complex adaptive systems.
Dedicated engagement and practice of the system will give a decided edge in keeping individuals and organizations ahead of the curve. To use evolutionary parlance, to keep individual and organization "fit" and "adaptive" to its environment.
It is based on the belief we both shape our environment, and are shaped by our environment, and that this is a dynamic, non-linear ongoing process. Our efforts and engagement dictate how much we shape, and how much we're shaped by the environment. A nuanced position here is leaders shape, followers are shaped, and to optimally lead or follow, those roles reverse and are dynamic. Living systems thrive on cycle dynamics, of which this is just one. This also shapes our mental models where concepts like "bottom up" and "top down" are blurred into an endless dynamic cycle.

Vision and Philosophy--A Sketch.

Vision and philosophy sets context, and as we will continually see context is everything.
Vision helps us shape where we want to go, vision helps us shape the world we would like to move towards, rather than the world that moves towards us.

Vision is also how and what we see. 

The greater context that shapes our vision is we are in the midst of one of the worlds major paradigm shifts, morphing from what was the industrial revolution based on mechanics to a 'digital' revolution based on biology and living things. This shift is being being shaped by the most significant advent of information communications in human history, the internet.

This shift away from the mechanical basis to that of a biological basis creates an entirely different way of understanding of the world, as much of the models that the industrial economy used to shaped the world were based on mechanical systems and physics, along with political ideology that each have their philosophical roots from 200 plus years ago.
These ideologies and the institutions that have been built up around them form the barriers to growth for a healthy transformation to an emerging digitally networked economic ecosystem. This provides us with both significant challenges, and significant opportunities.

Our Vision and Mission is to be the leaders and leading organizations in creating and growing an econosphere and ecosystem based on living systems and the health of that system is measured both by the health of the individual unit (that you, I, people!!) and the ability of the environment to support the social economic activity of these people.
This very basic sketch provides us with a pallet on which we can all paint, creating a shared vision of a radically different, and very exciting future. This also shapes our philosophy in subtle ways, helping us be leaders in creating constructive bridges across ideological divides, divisions that currently have us on a precipice, divisions that have us divided against each other, rather than united towards a future where our individual potential is enhanced, and our relationship with the whole more clear, neither the whole or the individual trumping the other.
This is in keeping with networks, the biology of cooperation and competition (coopetition!!), and the winning logic of non-zero sum relationships.
This is also an important fundamental shift in human organization, as zero-sum, warring strategies have played a role in bootstrapping humanity to this point (life is an arms race), that strategy now is decidedly sub-optimal in relationship to globalization, technology and interdependence of trade, along with a growing need for a global response to environmental stresses that potentially nine billion people will put on a planet.

Model and System

Describing biological systems is inherently difficult, so lets look instead at the functionality of what I call the "three pillars" of highly adaptable organizations, Systems Thinking (Living systems), Organizational Learning, and Social Technologies. Each of these 'pillars' (bad metaphor, I know!!) are like trunks of a tree (better?) that re-enforces the other in a continuous dynamic loop. Fully understood and engaged, this system also shapes and informs an individuals and organizations "social media strategy", and naturally creates "overgrowth" on the traditional silos and boundaries of the traditional model based on neoclassicism.
Leadership in these styles of organizations take on a much different dynamic to fully utilize the power and energy that has been dormant in the system. Traditional models stifle individuality, personal engagement, desire, creativity and the massive amounts of dormant social and intellectual capital that resides in most every organization.
With leadership styles shaped to the living system organization, overall vision is greatly enhanced, along with its ability to "sense" its environment, that is to touch, hear, see, smell and taste. The extent as to how much this is mere metaphor as to how much this actually extends the cognitive reality of the organization depends on the ability of its individuals to reshape their own mental models.
This is not a trivial distinction, as this will significantly shape also how the organization "sees" data, models data, and uses data. More importantly how it extends trust with that data, along with transparency. This all together helps form the foundational basis for the "social business" strategy of an organization. This properly attuned and engaged strategy will give the organization a very distinctive advantage over its peers in any given arena.

What is not immediately obvious, is that the full engagement of this model and system leads naturally to the ongoing innovation any organization will need to not just adapt to the ever shifting environment, but give it optimal conditions to spawn and speciate. Put more plainly, to create new products and services that are the key to its survival, its leadership in its arena, or if necessary, morph into a different environment altogether.

Lets look briefly under the hood.

Living Systems Thinking
How Organizations and Individual See and Experience the World

I can not stress enough this is not mere metaphor, but a mental model. I also can not stress enough this is a significant shift in how we think and see the world. But it is also manner of thinking best suited to live, lead and adapt in complexity. Much of traditional schooling does not do well to prepare us to think and see this way, for that matter it is an effort to overcome the traditional schooling, training and training. Again, massive opportunity. As individuals, we've likely been exposed to a lot of the different sciences that have established and extended on the concepts of organizations and economies as living systems and complex adaptive systems, however my experience has been there is also much more to learn, and better yet, much much more to learn and do in transforming our organizations as such, and learning how to lead within them.

We not going to learn much in this blog post, this is a life long journey. But to give us an idea, lets look to our own brain/bodies (there is no dualism!!) for inspiration, which are themselves 'complex adaptive systems'.
We used to think of the brain, and a part of the brain as having an "executive function", this centralized unit of control that was the mastermind behind our day to day actions. We know now that is false. Our systems take in enormous amount of data of which our 'conscious' (our interface with the outside world) is only partially aware of, around 5%. We know that data is organized behind the scenes, in a highly distributed, complex way which is more emergent than 'planned'. (the more we explore this relationship, the more we will see a cycle, rather than linear "planned economy" of our mind) This is self organized at blinding speed, and presented to ourselves milliseconds before we "act".
While we may think we have this elevated executive function, this is a false sense of reality. What we are is a living complex adaptive system that is highly attuned to an environment.
While there is a rich body of work in how we can achieve higher conscious (meditating, etc) as an individual, there is much more than can be extended towards how we reshape our thinking of ourselves and our organizations, and how we interact and shape our environments.
The organization brings in enormous amounts of data, and for fun, lets assume its only aware of around 5%.
Even a subtle shift in our mental models can open ourselves to a lot of unused data, information, knowledge, wisdom within our organization.
That's our "internal conscious".
The relationship with our external environment can be where enormous "personal growth" is possible.

Key concepts here.
Conscious, five senses, empathy, untapped energy and potential.
Relationships are dynamic, non-linear. Environments are complex, always shifting, we shape and are shaped by our environments. Control is illusionary. Attraction and engagement brings in and amplifies resources.
Synthesis of expertise. Generalists.

Organizational Learning
Adaptive Information, Adaptive Learning

If living systems thinking is how we see and experience the world, then organizational learning shapes how we learn about the world.
Lets again use the mind/body as a metaphor, with each person within the organization both representing a neuron of the mind and a nerve ending in our central nervous system.
We don't have to explore the organization very deeply to see enormous amounts of untapped potential here to both vastly improve the "intelligence" of the organization, and its ability to sense and understand both its external and internal environment.
Organizations that do not understand it kill these cells and nerve endings. Everybody reading here likely knows what I mean--the disengaged employee who after having all their corners rounded off, do just enough to do what it takes to get the paycheque.
This, understandably, is costly in ways that extend well beyond the border of the organization itself. It is unhealthy. It is no wonder that so many organization look and feel "cancerous" to both management and employees--its because they are.
The learning organization changes all that. Each node (person!! Bob!! Sally!! Tim!! Jane!!) is seen as a highly valuable neuron and nerve ending in what is a highly engaging and energized living system. Each one fully engaging their own senses and capabilities that harmonize the interests of the whole and
their own interests. Themselves and the organization interact in a dynamic, interactive harmony that dramatically enhances both, exploding the potential of the individual and the whole.

This dynamic creates a learning environment. That seems simple enough, but it is what it learns, what each person both already learns, and is inspired to learn that makes this such a dynamic force.
Because it is synthesized with the mental model of the living system, we now have a living breathing body of energy that is actively learning about its external and internal environment! 
What that information and knowledge might is of course highly contextual depending on numerous factors, but one universal thought pattern is everyone is learning to think in terms of living systems.

Key concepts.
All living systems have ways to process data and sense their environment, we as people can highly amplify that dynamic.
What you do affects others, what others do affect you.
More so than ever, environments are constantly shifting, the learning organization can be much better suited to understanding, adapting and leading in those environments.
Being highly valued for your role in the organization inspires more learning both for your own interests and that of the whole, creating engagement and value driven actions and systems. Win win for all involved.
Note: I'll leave it separate from here, but for the advanced organizational intelligence, we have a specific framework to radically enhance organizational learning and intelligence. That framework also dovetails with the social technologies and social media strategy. I leave it separate as the system can work independent from this framework.

Social Technologies
Social Engagement

If living systems is how we think of the world and see the world, and organizational learning is how we inform ourselves of that world, and enhance our intelligence and five senses towards the world, social technologies is how we engage and interact with the world, and the world with us, and how we ever refine our senses.

Social technologies not only are radically changing how you and I are engaging in the world, they are more radically altering how the organization engages in the world. Social technologies are also radically (and already have of course!) reshaped how information flows. 
From an evolutionary standpoint, this has created a Cambrian Explosion.

Again, we can barely scratch the surface of potential here, as the potential is shaped by the mental models of the living system mind, and the organization's willingness to learn and engage.
That there are so many barriers here, both psychological, mental, and organizational only amplifies the potential for those who can fully adapt and engage the three pillars system, and develop organizational models based on biology and living systems.
Fully engaged models will have both very rich information flows, but also high degrees of trust and engagement with all the individuals who ultimately are part of an organizational 'system'--management, employees, customers, investors, suppliers, citizens, and the living breathing environment of life itself--our ecosystem.

Social media, socially engaged employees, socially engaged customers, and the freer flow of information and relationships are radically altering both the organization and the environment it operates in. Static adherence to the status quo is not an option.

The Whole
 Winning Combinations

For every person and organization, there are hundreds of ways to combine these three pillars in to a highly robust system. Many of course already are. Context and leadership is the key towards winning combinations. 
To fully comprehend this, we need to have a wide and deeply distributed and engaged sense of our shared "current reality" along with a wide and shared understanding of our "shared vision".
This is why the Community of Practice (CoP) is essential to fully utilizing the potential of this model and system.
Without getting into the entire buffet of learning engagement strategies and processes (which I cover extensively on my Google Plus stream), these shared realities and visions give us the context and purpose that fills our value system, our desire to create and sustain something that will have an enormous positive impact as to how we organize our economies, the kinds of products and services the people will need to live sustainable lives, and as the individual and their health is at the heart of the organizational web, the values of those products and services become self apparent.

The winning combinations are patterns that emerge from the dynamic relationships we and the organization forms with all its components upon which its survival depends. This sets its leadership style, its incentives programs, and the type of resources it attracts. Resources that intimately include the management, employees, customers, investors, suppliers, citizens and the environment into one organism that whose strength is dependent on the quality and value created in these relationship webs.

This extends well beyond what would be traditional called the internal of the organization, out into a vast web of win-win relationships that shape further our political environment and economic system to what we will come to understand as the Sentient Econosystem. 
The winning combination are self aware enough that greater trends of environment and climate, plus resource management will need high value webs to insure the entire system upon which everything depends survives.
This is not an ideological position, this is the inherent logical of the sentient organization, the result of highly attuned awareness, of leaving the narcissism of the organizations of the past behind.

Next Steps
Developing the Community of Practice for the Development of the Organization of the Future. 

As we should know by now, this is a journey, as shared journey.
As perhaps is obvious by now, this is not a system that can be employed via tradition top down roll outs, etc.
It is also one that needs a community of practice to develop the skills and knowledge, the art and the practice to fully engage and develop the benefits.
Because of its very nature, the CoP we're developing around this system, model and engagement lends itself to both high trust networks and the massive potential for innovation within.

With this in mind, how we engage, and practice the model and system.
Again, this is a cycle. The more we get to know you and your purpose, your goals for being here, the more we can help you get there, and the more you understand the model and system, the more you learn, the more you can give back and the more potential we all have for "spontaneous collisions" from which all manners and matters of innovation can arise.
Not just products or services, but models. Networks. And how to attract the resources.

We already have an amazing combination of knowledge and experience, cutting across lines from the science of networks, synthetic biology, finance, business and business systems, social media, community management, reputation systems, just to name some, all of which can be combined and morphed into the novel combinations which can amplify in ways that can change the game.

The keys here are:
--Numbers, generally 150 to 300 is ideal. Why? Social capital.  Network spread. Because of the rich potential we already have, but constrained due to nature of each our own limited time and resources, to bring together the teams that can put into action individual projects we need a fairly deep and wide pool of social capital. Also, for the kind of business and social intelligence we want to have, we need at least that many eyes, ears, voices and inputs. Too few people puts too much strain in too few people. We don't want to burn out, we want to build energy.
--Methods and Practices. There is a lot to learn here, as it is a very rich field as to how to best use and develop collective intelligence, smart swarming, crowd sourcing, collaboration, smart teams, project development, much etc.
--Outputs and Inputs. Practical engagement will be a key here, that is how quickly can we put something together that you can most readily use for your own advancement, and advance the community itself. To repeat, the more we know of your purpose, strategy etc, the more the "room" can help. Conversely, the more you'll learn how to put back into the system. Like all economic systems, the more you put in, the more we all get out. We can't starve the system.
Where does this all "take place"? We all know what a great open engagement place G+ is, or even FB, LinkedIn, or even Twitter is.
But they're not great for the kind of community building this needs to make it work.
I know the Caucus Conferencing System well, its been home to Howard Rheingold's Brainstorms for 14 years, and is particularly well suited for the CoP we'll be developing. It has a rich history, and several members of our tribe have belonged to it for years, and there also comes with it very good collaborative alignment potential and resources.
I have the bare bones of four conferences awaiting for us to grow from, with enough of the framework to get us to where we want to go.
It gives us a very secure environment (it is not web searchable) to develop the trust we need to do what we want to do.
I must also stress this is part of my own consulting strategy for building organizations of the future. If this concerns you in any way, I am more than happy to explain further this dynamic, and how it enriched the potential for us all, and how we use this to extend into the organizations we may be a part of already.

Thanks for reading. This may have been a bit dry, and not reflective of my enormous belief and enthusiasm for the potential of this model and system. The more we all catch this belief and enthusiasm, the more this will form massive connective collective energy and radiate back out through each of us in our projects and engagements!!