“Younger people have grown up with computers and networks in a
way that older people haven't,” says Nicholas Brealey whose Future Files: The 5 Trends That Will Shape the Next 50 Years by Richard Watson comes out in November. “The younger generation built Web 2.0,” he says.
Future Files is cited amongst a review in Publishers Weekly of numerous new management books where a few remarkable themes stand out:
- the title of the review The Individual Man: Business Management for a new generation can only spark - are you kidding me?? but there are still some gems,
- instantaneous anticipation of respect (some 6 million new businesses were started last year,
- young leaders are customizing their companies to fit their lifestyles and values (certainly the case with Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappos)
- leader as a whole person rather than a set of skills or techniques
- young people see themselves as more than a cog in a machine
- sense of individuality, high needs and expectations
- action for managers to “go green"
Other than the Future Files there did not seem to be many books carving out new management or organizational models for a networked world as I would have expected given the enormous social media shifts impacting business. Put it under the rubric of Enterprise 2.0 which also happens to be a conference where colleague Jenny Ambrozek and I will be leading a discussion on Open netWORKING Organizations - Co-generating Business Value.
But in a stunning triumph of an article by Nicholas Carr, Is Google Making Us Stoopid? in the July/ August issue of The Atlantic Monthly I think I see the answers. The relentless march of technology to improve organizational effectiveness and efficency is not new. Any student of business knows of Frederick Taylor and his principles of Scientific Management As Carr describes:
Taylor's system is still very much with us: It remains the ethic of industrial manufacturing. And now, thanks to the growing power that computer engineers and software coders wield over our intellectual lives, Taylor's ethic is beginning to govern the realm of the mind as well. The Internet is a machine designed for the efficient and automated collection, transmission, and manipulation of information, and its legions of programmers are intent on finding the "one best method" -the perfect algorithm- to carry out every mental movement of what we have come to describe as "knowledge work."
We are still being Taylorized.
It was the opening of Carr's article characterizing his own awareness though of how his thinking, patience for reading and writing has changed AW (after web) compared to BW (before web) which struck a chord. Here is the netWORK being, the generation who's reading, surfing, interacting, expectations and instantaneous anticipation of respect is shaped by the technology.
He points to research which confirms some of these observations that Internet usage affects cognition. Quotes Maryanne Wolf, a developmental psychologist and author of Proust and the Squid: The Story and Science of the Reading Brain that we become "mere decoders of information."
There is much to this article and it may rank right up there with Bill Joy's famous Why the Future Doesn't Need Us but I think there is a wake up call for those of us consulting to organizations on the intersection of technology and human performance. We need to remember that workplaces need to be a balance of social and technological systems. Taylor has actually been given a bad wrap for years in that he was actually trying to make work more satisfying for the worker by optimizing efficiency.
In our Enterprise 2.0 session we refer to the socio-tech balance as relevant today as Tavistock 50 years ago "If a technical system is created at the expense of a social system, the results obtained will be sub-optimal." Looking forward to the next iteration of netWORK beings.
~ Victoria G. Axelrod