THE COLLABORATIVE DIGITAL "SPACE FOR ACTION"

By Siegfried Lautenbacher Aug 29, 2015
THE COLLABORATIVE DIGITAL

Translation of the Original Article by Siegfried Lautenbacher

(Almost) the entire automotive industry still follows the old path of Taylorism in the conditions of production. There are enough examples in the automotive sector that just innovative forms of cooperation work of equal value. You just have to want to.
Photo: Lars Plougmann – Taylorism on Flickr under the terms of the Creative Commons (BY-SA) - Namensennung / use on equal terms.

„You cannot interpret and design the 21st century digital society with the old understanding of the machine world of the 19th century“(Boes & Kämpf 2015, pg. 9).

Earlier this year Evangelos Simoudis wrote on „Enterprise Irregulars“ about "innovation-driven disruption" of the entire automotive industry. Or rather, the fact that the true message of the disruption has usually not yet arrived to the major manufacturers of automobiles. In early July an interview with Prof. Sabine Pfeiffer appeared at the question "Can we do Industry 4.0" and mid-July finally the brochure came of the project digit DL ("Digital service in modern value systems - A Sustainable New productivity potential") from which the above quotation is taken out of. What do these three rather empirical considerations have to do with each other? Quite simply: All three illuminate from a different perspective, how far-reaching the digital transformation also - or especially - for industrial production (and the entire value chain) will be, even if it may not be "the" effect on "the" work (Pfeiffer). Moreover, all three emphasize that the aim must be to leave the purely technical level, where the German mechanical engineering companies for example are very strong. The digital revolution has long left the area of 'knowledge work'. The aim must be enhanced to let all employees of a company participate digitally - or to allow them a digital workplace. This blog ties in content to the article "No response from the engine room" and our thoughts on the subject of "Digital Workplace" (here and here). I therefore also want to justify why technological innovation alone is not sufficient (anymore) to generate true digital innovation. The social side must be added at least, meaning a social innovation. But of course also to lay down our statement, commitment and ultimately the practice in the company, and then to put this plan into action. In this respect, the issue can turn very well relate to the organization of work and work processes in terms of collaborative cooperation.

I especially like the analysis of the project digit DL emphasizing the digital information space as a "social space for action". Or at least as an option of one, which translates to a "strategy capable concept" for companies especially via Cloud Services. In a consistent application and use of the digital information space, this will not only change production processes, but also the business models. Above all, the work processes must transform in order to take advantage of the digital information space. The objection of Sabine Pfeiffer, that we "know from the history of automation, [...] that the substitution of human labor so rarely ran as intended, because new complexities arise, which in turn can only be handled by people" re worth a thought. Best this complexity is in turn complex - to be solved collectively and collaboratively.

Technology R & D

„Very few appear to be realizing that innovation is more than R&D. Silicon Valley has definitely shown us that today’s disruption is driven as much by business model innovation as it is by technology innovation“ (Evangelos Simoudis).

From the perspective of the sociology of technology, a technique or technology never consists only of artificial ingredients such as the workstation computers. Neither do they themselves determine the effects of technology. Technology acts - positively or negatively - in the way it is embedded in society and how it is dealt with it. This is also true for (technical) innovations, and not least the decision on what an innovation is, which the users make through the active use. A technology also necessarily includes the appropriate organizations and social structures, i.e. the concrete organization of the processes and through them imparted social institutions. The research and development department has (had) the classic competence in an industrial context for the development of techniques. Accordingly, most innovations are in the category of "closed innovation" (all participants are within the company) and the path dependence of the resulting products is correspondingly high. "The phenomenon can be observed everywhere, and is anything but a pure middle class phenomenon" (Pfeiffer). Since individual developments within the company of the past influence the things that are still being developed, just any innovation is no longer possible. Perhaps it will become more clear why the strong orientation towards the existing technology, and the attempts to innovate it, are the biggest handicap of enterprises, if one applies these relationships to the current upheaval. Technologies are never just "technical engineering constructions of effective tools and machinery". Techniques represent, quasi on a layer above it, means and forms at the same time, "how working in companies, research, communicates and will lived" (Rammert 2006, p 6). This applies even more to the organization of work, i.e. the way in which the products and goods are produced. And precisely here is the most important disruptive development with the new digital space for action: The transition also in the industrial and technical fields from Taylorism towards socio-collaborative forms of cooperation. For a good reason: The digital space for action of tomorrow specifies a networked and social learning, global and beyond corporate boundaries. A sole expansion of funds for R & D, as the companies have done in the automotive industry, without focusing on this area of innovation of cooperation does not assist in using the digital space for action in the sense of innovative products.

Experiment vs. Artifact

„ A new type of industrialization also starts at the information space [...] On the basis of the social action space he uses new forms of collaboration and communication and collectivizes previously personnel bound knowledge“ (digit DL, pg. 9).

The beauty of the classical understanding of technology - and of technical innovations - is that you end up having something "in hand". An artifact, something manufactured and presentable. This makes the move to social innovations, such as the manufacturing process and its social conditions, which are not so palpable, considerably difficult. Again transferred to the digital transformation: With regard to the prevailing work and process organization in the automotive sector, one can determine that there is already a lock-in situation (in German). At the moment this means that businesses make a "continuation or reactivation of those Taylorist- Fordist concepts" that have "been recognized as inadequate," years ago and overall promise "little sustainability" (Schumann, Kuhlmann & Sperling 2007; path-dependent strategy for success). On the other hand, just the automotive sector is capable bringing together both the technological as well the social side of the work- and process organization. Because there was always very exciting experiments to make the work- and process organization fundamentally different and more innovative. These were in the form of special ways, such as Volvo, or in the form of innovative projects, such as at VW with, in the words of the academic support hybrid factory concept "Project Auto 5000", decidedly the "especially innovative group work with extended task [...] and high self-organization [and] flatter hierarchy "(p.11) envisaged. As a result of these experiments can be stated: In the moment in which collaborations are used in both the product development and also in manufacturing and the distribution, the corresponding products are also innovative.

Where is the innovation of innovation?

„These disruptions are coming primarily from software, Internet and big data application companies outside the traditional automotive ecosystem […]  These companies are disrupting by combining technological with other forms of innovation, e.g., business model, sales model, marketing model“ (as above).

The special ways and innovative projects, and here it gets particularly interesting, have not failed as "experiments," neither economically nor on their specific labor policies. They have been re-integrated into the usual path of Tayloristic factory- and work organization, because this is still dominant and self-reinforcing as a paradigm. This can be illustrated with the VW model "Auto 5000", in which the sustained economic success led to the (old) reintegration. This speaks for the assumption that (only) the fundamentally new form of cooperation in the communications space - for example, via a social collaboration - actually leads to the digital departure. However, this (most likely) goes hand in hand with a huge shifts in the power structure of the companies as Evangelos Simoudis outlined in his article. It cannot be explained differently that Apple, Google and Tesla have now become the actual competitors on the technical side of the automotive sector. Incidentally, partly also in terms of work organization. It would be our first interim conclusion that an innovation of the innovation capacity and innovation of industrial-technical work processes to enable innovation on a broad basis is missing. For that is what it actually should be about, if traditional companies want to continue to be innovative. Our recommendation can therefore only be to tap into the Innovation of the innovative strength by introducing a collaboration platform.

Innovative Collaboration!

„Establish the right culture […] Automotive companies are governed by top down management style and a corporate culture that at best prefers fast followers […] instead of experimentation that often starts at the lower organizational levels, progresses in a bottom-up manner and leads to disruptive innovations“.

The recommendations are extremely diverse both from Evangelos Simoudis and the project digit DL and as well by Sabine Pfeiffer. "Whether a company is truly innovative is decided" precisely also by a diversified workforce "with solid but different qualifications" and "employee participation and co-determination at work and opportunities for participatory development of organization and technology" (Pfeiffer). Particularly meaningful are the theories with respect to a "new" corporate culture. A culture that in my opinion can only come about through a genuine collaboration and in this sense is a social innovation the way of cooperation. The most far-reaching but expected to be the conclusion might be that the only way to relevant social and technological innovations is via the collaborative and open cooperation across company boundaries. What, incidentally, was one of the key results of the experiment Auto 5000: "A concept gets targeted, which aims not only on improvements in productivity, but also on process innovations" (Auto 5000, p.13). Allowing the use of digital collaborative space for action via social software and operational communities - if that is not a real time process and work innovation. The results of three very different empirical findings therefore give courage, to go the way of a social collaboration towards a high-performance collaboration. For this, we at BeaS can and want to contribute much. For that is our innovative competence.