My favourite thing about digital is that it interrupts previously-established patterns and forces us to think differently. People and companies who succeed in this new market environment are doing it by embracing honesty and sharing a genuine desire to create abundance and foster connections. Here’s my take on the difference between the old ways of working and the new.
The static organisation
The static organisation is the natural result of a market environment previously based on acquiring and growing by any means, at any cost. But the tools, behaviours and organisations which worked for the past are now a liability, not an asset. Here are some characteristics of the static organisation:
Rigid and insular
Static organisations see their world through filters like “them” and “us” – the organisation, competitors and customers. This frames strategic objectives around conflict and acquisition instead of cooperation and abundance. Meaning is given or taken, not shared. The boundary of the organisation becomes a facade and a barrier to authenticity.
Intended meaning is distorted in a serial game of chinese whispers, as messages toss and tumble through complex internal routines. A complaint is sent to a sales rep by email, who tells their manager, who fills out a form to add the issue to a helpdesk, who respond with heartless boilerplate. By the time a response is made, genuine customer needs have been trampled by departmental agendas and bias, yielding unsympathetic robo-speak.
The static organisation is motivated by the operating imperatives of commerce: growth, scale and profit. Human beings aren’t inspired by growth, scale and profit – we want to unite and create experiences of delight, wonder and love. But individuals are gradually worn down by routines, our natural motivations are displaced and we forget why we got out of bed in the first place. To see this de-humanisation in action, look no further than Automatic Call Distributors (ACDs) the robotic voiceovers who duplicitously assure you that “Your call is important to us”, all the while keeping you far removed from a real person, piping Rick Astley into your desperate brain.
What has changed to unseat this static organisation? Digital technologies connect people at speeds and with a richness which was previously impossible. We can now enjoy all the benefits of scale with the intimacy of genuine communication. How does digital help?
Digital touchpoints pervade our daily lives. Smartphones are the perfect example – an always-available entry point to the world’s data and communication infrastructure. We can now share information, intent and individual location any time, and from pretty much any place.
Everest summit no 9! 1st tweet from the top of the world thanks to a weak 3G signal & the awesome Samsung Galaxy S2 handset! @samsunguk
— Kenton Cool (@KentonCool) May 6, 2011
Human beings love to congregate around bonfires – to share stories, meet with like-minded individuals and celebrate a natural inclination for company. Digital allows us to find like-minded souls and create online meeting spaces with ease – our virtual bonfires. Forums, Reddit, Hangouts, Hashtags and Groups are all examples of human beings congregating digitally.
We’re cultivating these digital meeting places every day. Developments in technology like haptic feedback, Google Glass and Oculus Rift mean our online experiences are getting richer and closer to real-life encounters with each day.
The digital organisation
Organisations which recognise and understand the nature of this digital environment can harvest resources which have become naturally available.
Where the old organisation is rigid and individualistic, the digital organisation is an eco-system – fluid and agile, built on cycles and continuous evolution. Projects are cyclical, with feedback & data flowing continuously in and out. This feedback shapes and moulds the company structure, mission and interactions.
Suddenly, human voices can be heard again. Ideas and creative brilliance flood in and out of the organisation, colliding with other ideas and revealing exciting paths forward through uncharted territory.
The digital organisation exists to participate and share, not to give and take. Digital disruption brings with it the chance to work closely and create together more intimately than before.