Monday, May 31, 2004

Life After Large Corporations 

One of my recent posts “The End of Corporations” has generated some traffic and apparently a fair interest among readers. People seem to agree that the large corporation model does not suit well with the knowledge economy. Now what? Should we help making it happen faster? How can people get ready for that?

My opinion is that large corporations are facing their extinction because they can’t adapt fast enough to their new environment. Darwinian? Yes. That’s usually a good approach in economics. Corporate dinosaurs will get their ice age (or asteroid if you prefer) and tinier creatures may be a better fit for the new knowledge environment.

I am still trying to organize my ideas about whether we should be promoting the death of corporations and about how we can help people prepare for what is coming. My first impression is that the new paradigm is coming fast enough and I’m not sure people will have enough time to get ready.

Anyhow it’s going to be the subject of my next post.

The Near Future Economy 

When we try to anticipate, it is always a good idea to take a look at where we are coming from. It gives us a direction on which to extrapolate. At the venerable age of 95, Peter F. Drucker does have an impressive background on which he can base his extrapolations.

In “The Next Society: A Survey of the Near Future”, Peter Drucker describes how he thinks the society will evolve as a result of the “knowledge economy”.

I agree with most of his predictions even though I think he was sometimes too conservative. As an example, he believes that corporations will be challenged to the extreme during the coming years. Personally, I believe they will become irrelevant. Nonetheless, that is the kind of article I would have loved to write if I were a legendary business scholar such as Peter Drucker.

Thanks to Harold for mentioning his work after he read “The End of Corporations”.

Friday, May 21, 2004

The end of corporations 

I hope this title is big and provocative enough to create a good discussion. My instinct is telling me that large corporations will face their end in the coming decades. I know I know, the current trends are globalization, acquisitions, and mergers. They tell us that the larger the corporations, the larger the profits. And in business, profits equal longevity. Anyhow, I’m throwing in this post what I feel is coming (please fell free to demolish the idea if it’s what it deserves).

Let me try to list some of the thoughts that led me to this intuition.
1. People of the coming generation no longer accept to conform to rules that don’t fit their own values. They don’t like to wait and like to be in total control of their lives.
2. Knowledge networks allow people to work across traditional boundaries such as departments and organizations.
3. Knowledge belongs to people and not corporations
4. Knowledge is equivalent to profit in a knowledge economy
5. The principle of continuity (fundamental in business) states that businesses are intended to last forever. Businesses as entity are then seeking to be stable over time even though their internal structures are changing. The problem is that they are too slow to adapt to change. Business structures that seek to improve flexibility (such as the matrix) are in fact a deconstruction of traditional business structures.

Following that, my rationale is quite simple:
1. Traditional corporations are not the best knowledge production structures in a changing world.
2. They are not able to capture or possess knowledge since knowledge belongs to people.
3. Since they will become always less competitive in creating knowledge, which is the profit generator in a knowledge-based economy, they will disappear.

What will replace corporations then? People. People working in networks, creating added-value by creating knowledge, getting paid according to their direct contribution to the society. This is a vision of empowered people that have their destiny in their hands, but also the responsability of its success or failure...

Our own personal realities 

Since, as human beings, all our interactions with the world transit through senses, we can say that reality is a subjective experience. Then reality is not universal but a personal interpretation based on the information our brain has received so far. It’s a pretty old concept for which Decartes became famous with his “Discours de la méthode” and the related quote “Je pense donc je suis” (I think therefore I am). Even if criticized by many modern philosophers, Decartes’ contribution was critical in establishing reality as a personal experience.

Since we are on our own in our personal universes, we feel isolated and we try to gather with like-minded people. It’s reassuring. We are linking personal realities together. What we perceive as a sense of community is still a personal experience.

The point that I want to make today is that one’s reality is of added value to the collectivity only if it contributes something unique. Communities of practice in general are, according to me, putting to much emphasis on building a common understanding. They would be far more productive if they tried to explore more often their boundaries, where uniqueness resides. We are valuable in how we think differently. It’s the only way to contribute to the expansion of humanity’s collective reality.

Wednesday, May 19, 2004

Knowledge Networks and Organizational Network Analysis

Valdis Krebs’ network analysis approach to organizational knowledge flows is quite impressive. Have a look at his InFlow software. The purpose of such a software:

“Sometimes its people or groups that want to look at their own networks, look at their own community, so they start gathering data, and start to see what's going on in the community.

Once you draw one of these maps, you can measure that map... You can measure the picture. It allows you to find whose the key player. Who's in a position of power. Who's in a position to bridge one community or one group together. Who has the most connections. Who has too many? Where are there gaps? In a corporation, you might look at a map and ask yourself, "Why aren't there connections between marketing and sales?" In an urban community, it might be, "Why aren't there connections between this street and that in the neighborhood?"

Once you get some measures, you have a baseline, and you can act on that to improve the community. And then track it over time with these metrics. The relations are improving, because we have metrics showing this, etc.”

Friday, May 14, 2004

Very Large Group Thinking

I have learned through Kmworld about the existence of BlogPulse. The site lists the most cited people names, keywords and phrases in the blogosphere for a given day. I like to think of it as mass brainstorming. It will be worth looking how the service will improve and how effectively it will predict new trends and innovative ideas.

Monday, May 10, 2004

Knowledge Network

Rob Cross’ work on people networks in large organizations illustrates quite well how we could foster collaboration by better understanding communication channels within and across organizations. I’ll have to expand my knowledge networks concept with these new perspectives.

Thanks to Harold for the reference.

Friday, May 07, 2004

Réalité manquante

On ne manque jamais autant le soleil qu’en le contemplant par la fenêtre.
Vivre la vie des autres et ne pas avoir mal.
N’avoir rien risqué, n’avoir rien à craindre.

Pourtant rêver, espérer, s’émouvoir.
Plus oublier jusqu’à demain, le temps d’une autre réalité par procuration.

Tuesday, May 04, 2004

Weblogs and Competitive Intelligence

My current work requires that I gather competitive information about IT, business and e-learning in community colleges. Obviously, I am an avid Google user and weblog reader. Unfortunately, it doesn’t sell very well to senior management to propose strategic directions based on texts of uncertain reliability. So I have to rely on more “academic” publications to justify my recommendations. The problem is that I almost never discover new trends or ideas by reading scholarly publications. By the time they get published they are often outdated and, more importantly, authors who want to publish have to be way too careful in expressing their ideas. Academic texts are expensive, lengthy and… boring.

Tired of this nonsense, I have started to aggregate weblogs related to my employer’s field. And I am getting some interesting results:

1. My searches are more effective because weblogs help me identify interesting ideas that I can refine afterwards using Google and academic publications.
2. By being more spontaneous, weblogs are more provocative. However, this spontaneity comes at the price of exaggeration and inaccuracy.

Bloggers often write about weblogs and generally think it’s THE solution to the knowledge bottleneck. My opinion is that it is an interesting new tool that can help us make a better use of more traditional resources. I will try in a near future to “sell” some recommendations justified with weblog reviews. I’ll let you know how it turns out.

Personal opinions are not a noise to evacuate. Since reality is only perceived, opinions are its very essence.

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