The first morning at Office 2.0 has been interesting from a management perspective.
First up was Esther Dyson who said her travels around the world indicate the ubiquity of DSL, which many of us in EU and the US take for granted is a rarity elsewhere. Esther sees this as a showstopper for the vision of always-on, services based work. I see this as a short term issue as telecomms companies figure out new ways of connecting the unconnected and empowering the disenfranchised. In parts of Europe for example, the mobile phone is the preferred connection device so DSL is of less importance.
Next up was Andrew McAfee, the man who spawned the notion of Enterprise 2.0. Andrew talked about some of the roadblocks to adoption, concentrating on the management issues. One of the key data points that emerges is that 1% of people are seriously active in the world of wiki/blog, 9% are moderately active, that is they may comment but are unlikely to have an especially active blog while 90% are lurkers. This last category are consumers of information who benefit from previously untapped knowledge.
These stats don’t surprise me. I’ve long argued the Mr. 1% scenario, where a very small number of people act as innovation creators, disrupters to the status quo and ultimately as change agents. The next 9% interest me as they are the ones who will (or will not) support change. In other words, these are the people who see ideas through to action. They’re the brokers between ideas people and users.
Over-riding this general view is the thorny issue of command and control versus free thinking. In a later conversation, Andrew agreed with me that we live in a world dominated by management and IT systems that support command and control. So even though today’s children may be much more tech savvy and willing to experiment with new things, my question is what happens when they enter higher education or professional training?
My sense is their free thinking nature gets knocked out of them as an integrated part of training. That’s because self interest kicks in and they quickly realise that climbing the greasy management pole requires conformity to the norms that govern those organisations. By the time trainees are in their third year, they’re culturally absorbed into those norms. Does this mean change that frees up knowledge and releases the power of free thinking and discussion will get stifled? Yes and no.
Like Andrew, I hope not. Mr 1% will thrive and may, over time become 2,3,4 or 5%. But I suspect there will be tremendous resistance for a long time to come. Especially from vested interests who see open innovation as a threat to the established order.