Monday, September 28, 2009

The Social Web's impact on Management Theory

An increasing number of people are talking about how social technologies -- social media, social networks, collaboration, reviews, crowd sourcing, etc -- are impacting our understanding of how organizations should be structured and how employees should be recruited, managed, and rewarded. On Wednesday of last week I presented an initial paper in London on this subject, based on my work with companies over the past decade or so: Open Management (opens PDF on Scribd website).

The last 10 years? Yes, in May of 2000 I joined Borland as its Chief Strategy Officer and had the pleasure of working with Doc Searls (one of the four authors of the Cluetrain Manifesto) who was working as a consultant to the company. Borland had decided to develop an open source development tools product, (Kylix for those of you who might wonder) and Doc had been retained to help the company understand the Linux "community" whatever that was!

As a technology firm working with software developers Borland already had a long history of using online forums to connect with customers. But I think it is fair to say that the experience of bringing a Linux product to market significantly increased our awareness of a new dynamic between companies and their markets. This has led me on a decade long exploration of social media, social networks, and a variety of other tools which I broadly group together under the name "social technologies." Social, not because it they are about fun but because they are about people doing things with other people. In other words, social as in sociology.

And organizations, especially corporations, are one of the most interesting places to study human social behavior. For generations now we have relied upon hierarchical structures to facilitate the coordination required for large numbers of people to act together. Now technology is offering an alternative to hierarchy, one which is proving to offer significant competitive advantages to early adopters, open source being one clear example.

In taking "open" as my label for this movement I seek to focus on the difference emerging from our twentieth century business constructs. All business is "social" -- but the 21st century will see an increasing number of open business models -- open management, open communications, open source, open support, open product development, open research... It is a great time to rethink assumptions and consider alternatives to everything we know in business!

1 comment:

David Spark said...

Hey Ted...the operative word at the end of your piece is "change" and that's the main reason you don't see everyone doing this. Everyone is reluctant to change.

I came upon this great realization as to why social media within ad agencies and businesses hasn't flourished both internally and externally. It's because when you hire firms like yours, The Conversation Group, or mine, Spark Media Solutions, we don't offer a solution that you can just pay for and it's solved. This is a solution you pay for, and then you have to change and get involved. People realize then NEED to change, but they're reluctant to do so because it requires work on their end.