Posted by: Nancy | August 27, 2009

Technology & human change

Thinking about the abundance of new applications and the frenzy around many of them … I sometimes feel as though we are lost in the weeds. No disrespect for all those covering the Friendfeed-Facebook story or any of the new Twitter apps or Google’s reaction, etc., but it seems to me that something much bigger is underway.

Technology is driving new business organizations and new frontiers in collaboration and openness and human expression.

The easy sharing of information — for personal reasons or in a work environment, for  productivity — is unmistakable. It is manifested in blogs and tweets, in posts and comments on walls, in photos and videos. It’s easier and easier to do, more and more of us are doing it.

You might think, So what?

It might be just a fun social experiment, but it has implications on how we do business, on our corporate organizational chart and all the implications surrounding that — leadership, goal-setting, culture, compensation, incentives, budgets, productivity, execution.

Business models are changing. Because of technology.

John Chambers drives home the point from his perspective in this video from McKinsey & Co.

Chambers describes a new structure at Cisco Systems, years in the making, which is a shift from traditional command-and-control hierarchies to a collaborative, team-based replicable process. The new model is based on councils, boards and working groups that collaborate and execute.

The evolution to this model took learning across the organization, understanding the real importance of delegation and empowerment. People had to change their behavior to succeed in the new business model.

Learning how to use wikis or telepresence or video-blogging was the easy part; you can hear Chambers admit that.

Learning to really push yourself out of your comfort zone — that’s what brings about lasting change.

He argues with insight: This economic downturn is providing each of us with the opportunity of a lifetime. It’s a chance to change focus, to paint the picture of what’s possible and be one of the businesses that comes out stronger than ever, rather than one of the 20-40 percent that will never regain their former stature.It just takes recognizing the opportunity and having the courage to change yourself to meet it.

It’s going to keep changing, I’m certain of that. Within two years, we’ll look back on these days with our fragmented Facebook, Twitter, wikis, intranets, news sites and home pages as archaically disconnected and impossibly frustrating. The future will be integrated social communities, a fabric of communications that unifies information sharing, magnifies relationships and rewards value.

All because information sharing is so easy, so natural, fulfilling a basic human desire for self-expression. Once you can embrace the technology and the behavioral changes, you can see new ways of organizing to enhance productivity, to let natural inclinations flourish. Some of the new ways aren’t even designed yet, so opportunity abounds.

Sure, it still takes courage and commitment, just as every worthwhile effort does.

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