The digital future belongs to Networks (Part 1)

By Alexander Klier By Jeffrey Backus Jul 6, 2015
The digital future belongs to Networks (Part 1)

Translation of the Original article by Alexander Klier

How? Where? What? The current situation with implementing a Social Collaboration is very contradictory. It is becoming increasingly apparent that strictly hierarchical forms of Organizations are being resolved gradually. You could start at various points, as long as the work processes are being referred back to.
Picture: Ralf Appelt – Collaboration Arena (on Flickr), Use under the conditions of the Creative Commons – CC 3.0 (BY-SA)

The hierarchical way to work, where everything trickles down from the top is finally passé. At least once you know the latest empirical findings on networked working, and consider them as a serious corporate target. Many companies are currently asserting this. Still, they only creep slowly on their way towards collaborative cooperation. A good occasion for us to analyze which “corners in companies” true impulses for networking come from. We will do just that in eight articles, and in that accompanying the expert blog in Computerwoche. Sebastian Thielke started with the article Leadership, Management and Organization here. That blog post focuses on the true challenge for companies that lie behind networks.  

The true challenge

Many companies started their journey towards „Enterprise 2.0“– this is one of the terms at the front of marketing brochures, but at the very back in regards to implementation. Many companies learn – by doing – to understand that a digital transformation is not about a technical solution, but it is mainly about a changed way of dealing with behaviors and attitudes, which digital tools entail. At least that is the key finding of our own experiences with networked environments. Based upon the example of decision-making processes it can be demonstrated that network structures work so well in companies, because for example the complexity of decisions in corporations for individuals cannot be handled anymore. However, if a decision is being shared between many from the start, then the benefits of networking come to full fruition. Also, in total, companies will only jointly and networked reach better knowledge management and more productive ways of working. If you follow Tom Malone from MIT, the most important innovations do not stem from new technologies, but from a networked or different way of (collaborative) cooperation. A central role for this are communities.

Communities and work processes

While knowledge management used to be about gaining transparency over the knowledge of the smart heads in the company, the discussion about Communi-cating has a completely different reach. This already starts with how knowledge is created – whether the creativity of the employees can be used in a collaborative process. If the employees then willingly share their knowledge in communities, communicate and exchange with others, then this will lead to better and faster results in most cases. An invaluable advantage for companies. And one of the reasons why knowledge sharing in communities has even become a strategically crucial issue. In order to achieve this, you should know how to best organize processes and procedures around the knowledge of the employees. Digital platforms like Social Enterprise Networks with their communities and individual tools such as Wikis, or Blogs (also on mobile apps) only support the altering of processes. They remain digital tools that in reality first will have to be needed. We also know from our projects that working via communities - where your knowledge is shared with colleagues – requires other skills than just working off the assigned tasks. Sharing unfinished thoughts requires dealing with uncertainties self-reflectingly, the introduction of communities on a broad level in the company, as well as the dealing accurately with the unplannable. What many are not (yet) clear on with a consequent realization of collaborative co-work: the change in one corner of the company will have organizational consequences for all other corners of the company, because collaborative work in communities essentially requires a new form of Leadership, in order to really be fruitful.

Do it, will you?

Most businesses now know that they need a network organization and communities in order to perform at their best. They also know that communication is best in groups, and knowledge can best be created and flow if people collaborate in communities. However, they often still lack the sense of what “Social” really means. With our blogs we want to deepen the approach that you may well begin with a fruitful collaboration in a specific area. As long as you lose sight of the fact – without being able to exactly plan it – that the new organization of work has or will have an impact on all corners of the company. We already presented information on “doing” – in the sense of beginning – at the Social Business Arena during CeBit 2015 (see here). The following blog posts are part of this series:

  1. Why cooperation is central in the network (Part 2)
  2. The networked corporation – Leadership, Management und Organization (link needs update to English))
  3. Part 3