[Note: This is the fifth in a series of posts about the Social Enterprise and the Big Shift. The first post provided an introduction and overall context; the second looked specifically at collaboration, working together; the third looked at optimising performance, enjoying work, working more effectively. The fourth, Doing By Learning, looked at how work gets done in the enterprise, and provided the context in which such flows should be seen. This post delves into the subject of flows in detail, and introduces the concept of enterprise social objects. In later posts I will look at the social objects in detail, and then move on to filtering and curation. The last three posts (in the series of ten) will look at innovation, motivation and radical transformation.]
This is not a post about workflow. We’ve had workflow. And, while everything was stable and predictable and change was glacial,workflow was enough: institutions focused on unit costs, they made use of scale within experience curves. Size mattered. First-mover advantages were high. And money begat money. Monopolies formed regularly; regulators formed to control those monopolies; the two went into standoff; and innovation died.
This is not a post about process either. We’ve had process. Again, process was great when change could be prevented. The day before yesterday, as part of the Alan Turing centenary celebrations organised by the ACM, Alan Kay appears to have reminded people about what he said four or five decades ago: The best way to predict the future is to invent it. He also appears to have referred to the amendment he made to that phrase much later, when he said: The best way to predict the future is to prevent it. It’s a sad truth but true. Standardised processes work best when there is no change.
There was a time when industry participants had such control over the market they could prevent change. Monopoly and complacency work together to militate against change. If you prevent change, you prevent invention. You prevent innovation. Sometimes you can pretend that change has taken place by using lipstick assiduously on those of porcine persuasion; sometimes that even works; but that’s not sustainable.
This is a post about collaborative flows, the flows that make up the Social Enterprise.
Implications of Doing by Learning
I wasn’t sure I should write this section; I know that a number of readers will object, and they may even stop reading this post, and perhaps even this blog, as a consequence. I mulled over it for quite some time: while there are shock jocks and trolls around, this blog has been about encouraging active engagement and participation. But, having thought hard about it, I have come to the conclusion that I must share these thoughts, that they are important and germane to the subject under discussion. You have been warned.
One of the key tenets of the Industrial Age (and of the theory-of-firm models that emerged as a result) is the division of labour. [As long as my readership in the UK and India exceeds that in the US and Canada, I can and will spell labour that way!]. The principles of division of labour were built on the concept of specialisation. And specialisation is a classic “knowledge stocks” concept. As we move from knowledge stocks to knowledge flows, from the experience curve to the collaboration curve, these principles will come under intense pressure.
This is not a new thing. We have been experiencing a blurring of lines between professions for some time now, driven by the move from stocks to flows. Professions used to be founded on a number of tenets: a code of honour, the values and ethics that bound the professionals together; the knowledge stocks that were gained during extended periods of formal study; and the experiences that augmented those knowledge stocks. We will still have professions in the future, but they are likely to be less dependent on the knowledge stocks — instead, my sense is that there will be a deepening, an enriching, of the codes — the values and ethics — that made that profession tick. I cannot help but feel that these professional codes have weakened over the past century, and that trust has been undermined as a result. This trust will have to be regained by the doctors, the lawyers, the financiers, the teachers, all of us who built our worth on knowledge stocks and experience curves while allowing some of the core values (upon which the professions were founded) to decay. Hippocratic oaths. Innocent until found guilty. Freedom of expression. Learning not teaching. Word is bond. That sort of thing.
If you’re interested in the implications for such professions, a good place to start is Andrew Abbott’s The System of Professions, already approaching a quarter of a century in print.
The fundamental differences between workflow and collaboration flows
This is important. If there is one idea I want you to take away from this post, even if you stop reading it shortly, it is this: the way we work has changed fundamentally. Root and branch.
Let me try and explain. Workflow is like trains. Every company had its own train set. Little engines and carriages and cabooses; perfectly formed lines and switches and signalling; miniature stations and marshalling yards. The whole kit and caboodle. And trains “flowed” around the system. Always on the lines. Linear. Well-behaved. A system entire of itself. Isolated. But no matter, especially if you operate a monopoly or near-monopoly. What was important was that the trains ran on time. Safely. Sometimes.
Workflow worked exactly like the train sets. Formal fits and starts. A series of static pieces tightly coupled. Coupled only where coupling was possible. But always tightly coupled. Change was a nightmare and considered unnecessary. Faster horses.
Workflow tends to have clear start and end points. Timetables. Efficiency experts. Clipboards. Clocking in and out. Journeys with limited variability, limited choices. All rigorously controlled “for the sake of everyone’s safety”. You know what I mean. [No matter that we’ve had glorious failures in all these industries dominated by process. It couldn’t possibly be the fault of the rigid processes.]
Customers were important, but needed to know their place. The trains were in charge. In fact, if you looked carefully, you’d find that during the golden age of trains, the trains had more rights than the customers. Not that long ago, the laws and bye-laws of British Rail were patently clear:
- the ticket I bought did not guarantee me a seat
- the ticket I bought did not guarantee that the train would run on time
- the ticket I bought did not even guarantee that a train would run
- in fact, the ticket I bought wasn’t mine to keep, even that had to be given up on demand
Those were the days. Days when process was king, workflow worked. And people were kept in their place. It was possible to connect the different train sets up, if everyone used the same standards and protocols. This didn’t always happen, but proliferation was relatively low for the most part. Most of the workflow you see is like trains, relatively standardised, a challenge to integrate across systems, but not impossible. There were occasional failures at scale, akin to the design of electrical plugs and plug-points around the world. To think we consider ourselves to be civilised while living in adaptor hell.
Workflow, like trains, worked in well-defined, closed systems.
Enough about workflow. Collaboration flows, on the other hand, are like rivers and oceans. No rails to go on. No clear start and end points. Free to entry to all comers, regardless of the size of the vessel. Timetables existed, but they were looser. Boundaries existed, but much of the space was “public”. Of course there were regulations and laws, but they were more suited to a global environment, since the majority of the space was public.Vessels could and did come in all shapes and sizes and power and capacity. The barriers to entry were low. Regulations were more like the commons, designed to ensure that multitudes could participate without let or hindrance. The challenges were in dealing with blockages, with pollution, with selfish use, with the “tragedy of the commons”.
If you can imagine traditional workflow to be about trains and collaboration flows to be like rivers and oceans, I have succeeded. I will go to bed happy.
Rivers and oceans also work. They don’t need connecting up, they’re already connected up. People do make journeys on them, but the start and endpoints are infinite, granular.
Collaboration flows, like rivers, work in open, inclusive environments. A dammed river is called a lake, not a river. However you market it.
I thought I would just write a footnote on this originally, but decided to make this more prominent. The rivers versus trains analogy also allows a better understanding of safety and security.
There was a time when brigands and robbers and pirates abounded everywhere. People have been accosted by brigands on horseback. Wagons and stagecoaches have been plundered. Cars have been held up at gunpoint. There’s even been a Great Train Robbery. As long as people have used different forms of transport to go from A to B, and as long as the “cargo” they’ve transported has been perceived as valuable, there’s been a market for attacking the transport.
When we speak of piracy in the context of physical goods, the underlying assumption is that we’re talking about ocean-based piracy. And there is some, particularly off the coast of Somalia, but not restricted to that. Yet, despite the “dangers” of piracy on the high seas, if we take US overseas trade for example, over 99% of US overseas trade by volume, and over 64% of the trade by value, used ocean-going transport, according to the US Bureau of the Census.
So despite the perceived dangers of piracy on the high seas, ocean shipping remains the primary basis for trade. Why is this? Because people have understood the risks, know how to deal with them, how to mitigate them. How to cross the oceans safely and securely.
So it is with the internet. So it is with the public cloud. So it is with the flows of the Social Enterprise, based on the internet and the public cloud.
What actually happens in the flows
I hope I’ve moved you some way from your prior conception of flows, since it would have been based on workflow. By now you would have just about started feeling comfortable with the view that workflow is static and linear and based on tightly coupled stocks of knowledge and division of labour, while collaboration flows are dynamic and nonlinear and based on loosely-coupled flows of knowledge with limited (and declining) division of labour. But you aren’t there yet, because I’ve worked at taking away a long-standing and faithful friend of yours without really explaining the replacement. So here goes.
As the Cluetrain guys said, markets are conversations. The oceans and rivers of collaboration flows include all these conversations. The conversations themselves are manifestations of relationships, some bilateral, some multilateral. Sometimes they lead to transactions, surfaced by the capability as seen in the context.
What are these conversations? There’s nothing special about them. Here’s a loose classification of the types of conversations one would see in the workplace:
- Questions needing answers (Hey, how do I do this? Here’s how. Where can I find this? Here it is. Who really knows this? Here’s who)
- Sharing of experiences (I just installed this app, and it was *useless*. Here’s why. I just read this book and it was *fantastic. Here’s why)
- Feedback (I really found your answer helpful. I couldn’t have done this without you.)
- Social filtering (I rate this answer more than the others. I think you should see this so I will +1 it or Like it or RT it.)
- Status reporting (I’m here doing this, I’m there doing that)
- Alerts potentially needing action (If THIS then THAT, coming from a litany of sources)
You get my drift. Normal everyday conversations; people asking each other about what and where and how and why. People sharing their experiences. People giving feedback. Alert and response systems. Normal everyday conversations.
These conversations have been going on for aeons. But there’s one major difference. And that is this: the conversations are recorded. Persisted. Archived. So they’re auditable. Searchable. Findable. Besides this, there are other significant differences:
- The conversations are made visible immediately , in real-time
- They come wrapped in context, auto date and time stamped, author identified, location mapped, topic tagged
- The context can be enriched by other participants
- They’re channel- and device-independent; conversations can start in one medium, move to another. They can start on blogs, move to twitter, move to synchronous sound.
- They’re time- and space-shiftable. Synchronous and asynchronous. Mobile in design.
- They work on “publish-subscribe” networked models rather than broadcast and hierarchy
By now you should be getting a flavour of what collaborations flows are. They’re how people learn: they consist of the questions and answers and feedback loops and pointers and alerts. Work is done as a result of that learning, as the enterprise builds and extends its capacity to learn, and to keep learning. The lessons used to be in the stocks of knowledge. Now the lessons themselves are in the flows of learning.
This learning tends to be manifested through instances that use digital objects that get embedded in the conversations. Documents. Presentations. Links to web sites and video and audio. Proposals and orders and bills and invoices and payments. Ideas. Complaints. Every one of these things is an “enterprise social object” around which learning takes place.
The social objects attract commentary. Comments, ratings, further links and references. The “hyperlinks that subvert hierarchy”, another Cluetrain classic. The rolling stones of the enterprise social objects gather the moss of commentary. The ability to gather the moss and make sense of it is part of the ability to learn.
I shall spend more time talking about the enterprise social objects next time round. In the meantime, this earlier post of mine, and the series in which it was placed, should help you chew on the idea.
Let me now close with a summary of the characteristics of collaborative flows.
The characteristics of collaborative flows
- Inclusive rather than exclusive, low barriers to entry
- Nevertheless, associated clearly with identity, not anonymity
- Designed for sharing, for community
- Secure: full audit log, archived, persistent, searchable, retrievable
- Instant, real-time
- Yet shiftable in time and place, so that asynchronous work can be performed
- Carrying contextual metadata cheaply
- Embedded with enterprise social objects that themselves attract commentary and revision
- Able to operate in and across multiple channels
- Subscriber- rather than publisher-powered
- Built to internet and public cloud standards
- Transparent, inspectable
- Built to make use of communal ability to learn rather than individual stocks of knowledge
I hope, by the time you’ve read my next post, you’ve begun to get a real feel for collaborative flows within the social enterprise. [And I hope to have learnt where my thinking has gone astray via your comments and your criticisms)
25 thoughts on “Continuing with the Social Enterprise and Flows”
Spot on. Read a few similar things this week but you have brought it all together in one place. I just worry that so many are being left out of the digital workflow due to not being online. Stuck on a pond somewhere going nowhere but happy with the ducks.
Particularly like the pirate part. That was spot on too.
Great depiction, JP. Here’s how I see the currents flowing through the hierarchy: https://plus.google.com/u/0/100641053530204604051/posts/YdgHZRLSduF
JP, it looks like most of the flows you describe are conversations, request-response protocols where the request anticipates a certain response. Phil Windley opened my eyes with “eventing”. The event just says “something happened” and any entity subscribing to those events can decide independently what to do with it. I have the feeling that we are moving from request-response to “eventing”, or better, in stead of moving from/to, adding a new type of conversation to our palette of skills.
@peter I thought I’d covered the eventing by talking about sharing of experiences and status, I did this, I am doing this, I will do this…. I am experiencing this
i simply see workflow as the codified mechanism to get things done by moving things from heuristic to an algorithm. Collaboration flows are required to solve mysteries, a much higher order series of corporate problem.
@chris we’re not far from a time when people pay a premium for not being online. seriously. as I’ve written before, africa may well be where we learn all this. when they scale global pricing of so many components changes.
@joachim, thanks for the link, will take a detailed look overnight
@duncan but the algorithms tend to represent business as usual… they’re not agile in themselves… so what changes? having hard processes alongside all this is like talk of the hybrid cloud…. buying a car and taking the engine out to make space for hay for the horses
Furthering the analogy for fun, if a process goes off the rails in a traditional workflow approach you get a train wreck, it’s an exceptional set of processes to manage the problem, it’s expensive to do, many specialists are required, it takes a long time to clean up. Just like running sharepoint to manage your workflows, a train track that doesn’t react well to heat, cold or an unexpected volume of autumnal matter. Everyone suffers despite the best of intentions.
If there is a blockage in the river it will find another way, problems will be navigated with the minimum of fuss. Just like seeing a team swarm around a problem that’s managed in an environment using chatter!
I’m glad we’re in a post workflow world, it’s more satisfying cruising along on a boat with a G&T than bad sandwiches on a train to nowhere.
If collaborative flows are a natural Big Shift for Social Enterprise why are we not seeing more GitHub inspired systems with attribution audit trails in the enterprise?
Are you suggesting that a professions’ combination of extended learning enhanced by on the job experience can be matched by outsiders in all areas? Clearly, there are many professions that overstate the complexity of their knowledge, but I’m not sure it applies to all. And I’m not being an apologist for professions – they certainly have to learn to be more collaborative vis a vis their clients/customers if they are to regain the trust that has been lost.
Regardless of any opinion you offer here, I will not stop reading. But if you start to change your spelling in relation to your readership, I may reconsider. Going with the majority opinion has never been your habit before, so please don’t start now ;o)
JP, here’s what stands out to me in this fifth post about collaboration flows:
That flows are “normal everyday conversations” about what, when, why and there is “nothing special about them,” they have been “going on for aeons.”
True, and it says to me that the shift from stocks to flows could be effortless. It’s what we’re already doing. So why aren’t these flows sweeping across the enterprise like wildfire?
The biggest impediment to collaboration flows in my view is the desire for control. Most people want to maintain control over what they’re familiar with. But in order to interact with the rivers and oceans of information, you have to be somewhat river- and ocean-like, right?
How do we invite people to take that stance?
I am following your posts with interest. Thus far my only firm disagreement is with your categorization of Canadian spelling . In general we are more like the UK than the US:
> we use ..our and ..re endings rather than the US ..or and ..re (ex. labour, colour, centre and sabre rather than labor, color, center and saber)
> unlike the UK, we definitely use “tire” and “curb” rather than the UK “tyre” and kerb”
> like the UK, we are in the middle of a transition from organise and paralyse to the US organize and paralyze
I love it as usual!
I would only add one other type of conversation, one that is increasingly central to how we deal with times of mounting pressure and rapid change. It is the vigorous argument, even with shouting and pounding on the table. It is natural that, when we are dealing with challenges we have never seen before, when we care passionately about outcomes and coming up with the right approach and when we have the necessary diversity to come up with truly creative solutions, we are going to engage in vigorous argument. It is what JSB and I have called “productive friction”, something that generates great insight. Of course, for the friction to be productive, we must conduct these arguments in the context of mutual respect and be willing to hear each other out and be willing to reassess our own positions when we encounter a compelling argument.
I have always worried about the “conversation” label, that people often have the image of casual chit chat. Sometimes it is certainly that, but it can be much more.
My one test when I walk through a company is what I see and hear around tables. If everyone is smiling and nodding during meetings, I generally conclude that this is a dysfunctional organization, either not confronting the real challenges or not willing to express what individuals really believe. From my experience, the most successful companies are characterized by lots of intense arguments within the meeting room, followed by backslapping and joking over refreshments.
@Brooks If you look at JP’s image above, it’s a photograph of an underground river (btw, not a painting, which I thought first!). So these flows are kind of hidden, tucked away, which is exactly what we see in all the private emails, external activity streams or water-cooler discussions happening across the enterprise. The task is, to shed some light on these underground rivers, invite people to jump right in, imho.
The algorithm’s appeal is its Cartesian tidiness. All those flows are so frakkin’ messy, sticky, unruly. Hasn’t all of civilization been about taming the wildness out of everything? Now, after all that progress, we serious business-types are expected to revert to flows? Aren’t flows controlled by that Dionysian moon? We’re much more comfortable with the Apollonian sun!
Terrific series of articles, JP. Looking forward to the next one.
Sure, the flows can be somewhat hidden or not. But the point I’m making is that people need help in my experience seeing that all of this social collaboration talk is not so different from what they already do, from “normal everyday conversations.” It’s natural. This realization is very eye opening.
Yet in order to do it out in the open with colleagues and execs on a social platform where the river of information is flowing quickly and the ocean is wide and deep, they often need to become more fluid with how they share and respond. Joi Ito comes to mind. He is social information and social information is him.
Very resonant work. In thinking about water analogy I consider some of the “structured” applications of water like canals as a kind of imposition of workflow on collaboration. Is that where the two worlds intersect? Or is the middle ground more like cars on highways.
I found this line of thinking very familiar. It summarises so much which has been wrong with “Enterprise Software” which in reality is really quite immature in evolution but has got “stuck” with too many vested interests; much as you described! In your personal profile I picked up the use of the word “commoditisation”. I believe that step for business software is long over due – all other aspects of “ICT” have reached that point and the benefit is clear low cost and ever improving products that “empower” individuals in their personal lives. But this is not so at work with the destructive command and control culture with targets that current inflexible software tends to support. A new “freedom” is required which supports what is called “Systems Thinking”. It was Dr Edwards Deming who advocated an “empowerment and measurement approach”. This is a good summary worth a read for those interested http://www.transformationforum.org/PDFs/managing_transformation_means_transforming_management_sopk2.pdf There is irony that he helped sort out Japan after the war is but now the “West” need his thinking applied and quickly!
Business software needs to refocus towards the users and as it does this will be the realisation that business logic never changes. This philosophy was at the core of some original thinking 20 years ago to solve the “software problem”. For those interested the UK Government are trying to encourage new ideas from the SMB community and this will give an insight to what has emerged http://ictinnovators1.procurement.cabinetoffice.gov.uk/Page/ViewIdea?ideaid=247
This is the start of the commoditisation of software by adopting an “object” approach that recognises the very few generic task types human and system that support people at work. It certainly supports what you describe as collaborative flows – how right you are about the limitations of “workflow”.
Hi JP. Haven’t been to your site in years but for some reason decided to visit it again today. What I read from your recent blog posts gave me a warm glow inside because it relates quite closely with my own research and what I’m seeing emerging collectively from many others around the world. In effect, many people are feeling and talking about the same thing but just using different words to describe it.
For example, my current research relates to culture, particularly within organizations. More specifically, I’ve been trying to articulate a “natural culture” within organizations that will allow it to transform into a living, learning collective that can grow and adapt with the dramatically changing times we are living within. What you might find interesting is that this research started years ago after reading The Cluetrain Manifesto and asking myself “What would a business be like if it had a culture similar to the Web?” Here’s a couple of quick key points that relate to what I’m hearing from you here, as well as some of your community members.
Live. Play. Learn. Work. – We’re killing ourselves by focusing on work too much. We’re not machines. We’re human. I believe a natural cyclic flow that allows us to be more human is one that revolves around living, playing, learning, and working. Thus we live to play, play to learn, learn to work, and work to live. More importantly though, we must work at living what we have learnt through play. In effect, how many people or organizations do you know that truly live what they know? A great example of this was Enron’s values. Your mission statement or culture isn’t something you just define and memorize, it’s something lived in every action and interaction of your day.
Power Flows – Most corporate minds can’t perceive a more natural self-organizing company because they see it as chaotic and without any control or order. This isn’t the case. An organization with this natural culture maintains both control and order but in a different, almost dynamic, way. Think of the org chart of the company being tipped on its side and fanned out like a network. Next imagine power points within the organization but instead of them being points that limit the flow and interaction within the organization, they instead increase the flow and interaction within it. Thus people are naturally drawn to these people like water that runs down hill because these key individuals strive to make themselves accessible to as many people as they can. In effect, these people become resource points or wellsprings within the organization that help promote the collaborative and interactive flow within it.
Again, what I’m finding interesting here is that a lot of this stuff isn’t new. It’s stuff that people have always intuitively felt but just couldn’t articulate logically or were fearful of articulating as heretics. Now as these patterns become more and more apparent and undeniable, we’re reaching a tipping point where people are finally understanding what they’re see and aren’t afraid to speak out about it.
The following my thoughts in context of known capabilities in our innovative software which could be described as based upon Object Model Driven Engineering. This is very much along the lines of thinking expressed by analyst Naomi Bloom http://infullbloom.us/?p=3222.
“Writing less code to achieve great business applications was my focus in that 1984 article, and it remains so today. Being able to do this is critical if we’re going to realize the full potential of information technology”
“….how those models can become applications without any code being written or even generated”.
“If I’m right, you’ll want to be on the agile, models-driven, definitional development side of the moat thus created…..”
In a subsequent tweet author said “It really matters how your vendors build their software, not just what they build” and Michael Krigsman a leading analyst tweeted referring to the article “Pointing to the technical foundation of future”.
It is interesting you also use the “object” thinking in terms associated with the digital “social” movement in the enterprise. I agree that workflow and process need to move on. Whilst this was not our language I believe what you are articulating represents the outcomes of this new approach. Looking at your articulation of the characteristics of collaborative flows the following will I hope let you see that this new architecture supports your thinking.
1. Inclusive rather than exclusive, low barriers to entry. – Nothing prescribed or exclusive with a build allowing understanding by all. Because the core code never changes yet delivers exactly what is required build is both low cost and quick
2. Nevertheless, associated clearly with identity, not anonymity. – People the roles and permissions are embedded into the core.
3. Designed for sharing, for community – Collaboration is up to the design there are no barriers.
4. Secure: full audit log, archived, persistent, searchable, retrievable. – All these requirements are fully supported
5. Instant, real-time – The architecture embeds front office with dynamic back office as a “hub” as opposed to a layer. This allows instant real-time operational views of activity
6. Yet shiftable in time and place, so that asynchronous work can be performed – Asynchronous tasks easily supported and managed with rules and time embedded.
7. Carrying contextual metadata cheaply – Data manages data and uses Oracle RDBMS
8. Embedded with enterprise social objects that themselves attract commentary and revision – At the basic level building in sharing ideas readily supported as part of build design. However the data centric nature has allowed us to build the dynamic questionnaire tool supporting a fast track process from data gathering to taking collective action, thus boosting ROI on questionnaire use. The questionnaires support focused conversation, appreciative inquiry, action learning and other proven change management approaches. It is a “digitised” social object delivering real “community intelligence”.
9. Able to operate in and across multiple channels – Supports across any browser
10. Subscriber- rather than publisher-powered – This is a commercial choice not a technical barrier.
11. Built to internet and public cloud standards – Yes already on UK Government G Cloud Store
12. Transparent, inspectable – Every aspect of any build is transparent and readily understandable by all parties
13. Built to make use of communal ability to learn rather than individual stocks of knowledge – Fully supported with real agility in the software supporting change as knowledge from users and requirements dictate.
JP, It was the potential for access to information, enabling wealth creation in impoverished communities which was identified in our earlier work .
“The emerging Information Age will provide an unprecedented opportunity for outreach and communication at local community levels by way of the Internet. Given the opportunity to communicate and research global resources, communities will become able to assess their own needs, identify resources to meet those needs, and procure those resources. In that sense, the information economy can work to the advantage of impoverished people in a way never before possible.
In order to participate in the information economy, it is essential for local communities in any nation in the world to be able to access common information. Given that the Internet and world wide web are in their development infancy, physical infrastructure for the Internet on a global basis need to be built: the global information infrastructure, or GII . So, why not create new companies that not only fulfill this very lucrative and ongoing infrastructure deployment and direct the profit to additional social needs such as poverty and hunger relief? “
It comes from a proposal for social enterprise.
I am so late to reading this, but I guess I’ll weigh in anyway. In 1980 I opened a marketing agency. I hired everyone: designers, account supervisors, PR people, media buyers, researchers, event planners. I grew to be the largest in Arizona. By 1996, almost everything I did had been commoditized by software and desktop publishing, and I had laid off many people. When I sold the business to Intel, I knew it was over as a business model that worked. Fifteen years later, I do the same kind of work with zero employees in a time and place independent fashion, with an infinite supply of resources at my disposal. I need only furnish the “engineering and design,” and even that comes from conversation and flow.
Having lived this, I have an understanding of it on the intuitive level of an entrepreneur and small business owner. And believe me, it was a roller coaster ride and I was nauseous most of the time. Only in hindsight do I see that I negotiated it with some success. At the time, it felt horrible. So I understand how the enterprise feels.
Generally an ocean or river conducts itself in an orderly and predictable manner in accordance with the tides and the weather. There are many people and much technology that monitors the tides and the weather.
On occasion however an “event” will trigger something unexpected which may lead to positive impacts such as the breaking of a drought or undesirable such as a tsunami hitting a populated coastline. On the social collaboration front – one interaction, one conversation, one post can quickly turn into a viral event (magnitude).
So how do you control these events ? As one contributor put it – you can put in place workflow infrastructure to direct the water to where you would like to use it. This works only to a point… you can barricade the shoreline in preparation for a tsunami but in reality you can’t ever fully prepare for it.
Maybe we should all just move away from the shore line, find a nice mountain with a small, gentle, predictable stream …. oh and a cave