21st Century Organization
The 21st Century is now heading towards its teenage years. Like all teenagers it’s confused and somewhat irritable. If you’re a business or even an interested consumer then you won’t have failed to notice some pretty big dynamics whizzing around.
The dynamics are constantly discussed – to death even – and include things like economic meltdown, social unrest, new morality, lack of political leadership, new technology driving a sound byte mentality and a million things that I forgot. How do we even begin to understand what we should do to ride these waves. Should we even try. Well humans will always apply themselves to these challenges and I’ve made it my life to try and help others make some sense of the complexity.
It is intriguing to me that the capabilities required for the 21st century are so very different even to the 20th century. We’ve always needed creativity craft skills and expertise in this area but now people are beginning to understand and agree that creativity is vital.
Unfortunately ideas and concepts like creativity and craft skills have been perceived as very woolly ideas and therefore not value by the businesses. A lot of industries have grown up to exploit the territory of creativity advertising agencies design businesses PR companies and to be honest they have not done a good job of truly establishing the value of those ideas
In the 21st Century effective leadership and successful collaboration, worthwhile knowledge and breakthrough innovation are high on the list of objectives and aims of our clients. After more than a decade of value networks leadership and as practitioner, it is apparent that adopting the following behaviors by people is harder, a lot harder than anyone might think. Traditional methods and staggering arrogance is often so deeply engrained in even the most clever and progressive business people that it can make the value networks transformation and outcome impossible for them.
On the bright side, managerial intransigence vis-à-vis value networks is often a generational issue. All the value network properties below are innate and transparent to new workers, authentic value networkers and shapers of the future. Fortunately there are still enough open-minded Baby Boomers around that have enough discipline to unlearn and wall-off 20th century styles of authoritarian command and control. These are the fun, good-humored leaders that create the future. The 21st Century Organization.
Value Networks 101- Characteristics and Behaviors
1. All ideas compete on an equal footing.
In value networks every idea has the chance to gain a following – or not. No one has the power to kill off a subversive idea or squelch an embarrassing debate. Ideas gain traction based on their genuine merits, network emergence and flow paths rather than on the perceived and self-appointed political power of their sponsors.
2. Contribution counts for more than credentials.
When you are active in a value network, position, title, history, experience and academic degrees – none of the usual status differentiators – carry much weight. In the value network, what counts is not your resume, but what you can contribute.
3. Influence, power is natural, not prescribed.
In value networks there may be roles which have more influence. Critically, though, these roles haven’t been appointed by some superior authority. Instead, their clout reflects the freely given approbation of the network. In the value network, authority is determined by outcomes, not phony mandates.
4. Leaders serve rather than preside.
In the value network, all leaders are servants; no one has the power to command or sanction. Credible arguments, demonstrated expertise and selfless behavior are the only levers for getting things done through the value network. Forget this key property, and people will abandon you fast and the value network disintegrates completely.
5. Tasks are chosen, not assigned.
Value networks are an opt-in economy. Whether contributing to a project, working on strategy, or executing to plan, people choose to work on the things that interest them. Everyone is an independent contractor, and everyone scratches their own itch.
6. Groups are self-defining and -organizing.
In the value network, you get to choose your compatriots. You have the freedom to link up with some individuals and ignore the rest, to share deeply with some folks and not at all with others. No one can assign you an inappropriate task, no can force you to work with dim-witted colleagues.
7. Resources get attracted, not allocated.
In large organizations, resources get allocated top-down, in a politicized, Soviet-style budget wrangle. In value networks, human effort flows towards ideas and projects that are attractive and fun, and away from those that aren’t. In this sense, value networks are a market economy where individuals decide, moment by moment, how to spend the precious currency of their time and attention.
8. Power comes from sharing information, not hoarding it.
To gain role influence and value network status, you have to give away your expertise and content. And you must do it quickly; if you don’t, someone else will beat you to the punch. In emergent value networks there are a lot of incentives to share. It’s the shared outcome not the hoard that is the reward.
9. Opinions compound and decisions are peer-reviewed.
When operating in value networks truly smart ideas rapidly gain a following no matter how disruptive they may be. Networks is a near-perfect medium for aggregating the wisdom of the crowd – whether in formally organized opinion markets or in casual discussion groups. The value network is a battering ram to challenge and defeat the entrenched interests and institutions.
10. Users can veto most policy decisions.
As many bossy moguls have learned to their sorrow, value networks are opinionated and vociferous – and will quickly attack any decision or policy change that seems contrary to the network interests. In authentic value networks performance and prosperity originates from the networks that have a substantial say in key decisions. You may have built the concept, identified the value network, but the roles really own it and you only serve it.
11. Intrinsic and intangible rewards matter most.
Value networks are the testament to the power of intrinsic and intangible rewards. Human beings will give generously of themselves when they’re given the chance to contribute to something they actually care about. Tangibles like money are necessary, but it’s recognition, the joy of accomplishment and above all, outcomes, that matter most.
12. Value networkers are heroes.
Large organizations tend to make life uncomfortable for activists and rabble-rousers – however constructive they may be. In contrast, value networks frequently embrace those with strong anti-authoritarian views since it is often the only way to drive innovation. Value networks are celebrated as champions of authentic democratic values – particularly when productivity growth, innovation and prosperity are the outcome.